Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Context is all - ensuring learning design fits

The second week of the OLDS MOOC on Learning Design was a messy but ultimately interesting and worthwhile run through the idea of contexts.
There is a lot that we take for granted in schools. Context is one of them. Obviously, when starting out in teaching in a new situation, the context in which the teaching and learning is going to take place is investigated. Soon, an understanding of what works in that context takes over and, apart from ideas such as differentiation or learning preferences, the task is about lesson planning.
At times a particular contextual topic may be raised. For example, are we doing enough for our second language learners? How can we use through-school language approaches to support these learners language development AND learning in other subjects? But it is rare to go back to basics and consider the complete contextual situation afresh.
The programme this week was tough to keep up with - one week was far too ambitious. Particularly because there was a lot to take in and then a lot to construct from the readings. Since I am still project-less, I am working through this in general and not relating it to a particular project.
The following are my notes on this area.
I take away from this week the idea that it is important to tease out all the issues involved with the contexts of the learning design. I considered the following three approaches: scenarios, "personas" and Ecology of Resources (EoR).
  1. Scenarios - brainstorming to obtain a view of the context involved:
    • Actors (who is involved?)
    • Goals (what are the targets?)
    • Settings (done where and when?)
    • Objects (what things involved?) laptop, phone, tablet, course platform, social media, mail, text, etc.
    • Actions (what happens to actors?) writing a narrative from the beginning, from seeing the course, joining it, working through it, completing it.
    • Events (what events could happen?) dropping out, falling behind
    • Results (what is achieved?)
    • Your design (what role does your design play?)
  2. Develop a narrative scenario (this is telling one story of this; really not sure if this is a good approach - how does it help beyond point 1?)
  3. Scrutinize scenarios - what claims are you making? do they hold up?
  4. Invite comment on your scenarios.
 Personas involved developing fictitious characters representing a typical person in the domain. These would be written on cards (post-its) and a process gone through to develop a "force map" (a graphical representation which illustrates the situation).
Several steps take you through the process:
Step 1: create persona cards in scenario
Step 2: create target cards - what do actors aim to achieve? what will they consider success?
Step 3: where? List material, social and intentional factors connecting/separating actors and targets.
Material: location, physical conditions, available technology, etc
Social: institutional structure, relations between actors, etc
Intentional: prior knowledge, beliefs, desires.
Step 4: place cards on a large sheet of paper thus:

                Actors                                                                         Targets

                                 Factors in between them, then link and annotate 
                                whether supporting or conflicting

Both of these approaches required a guessing of all the different types of actors, personas, that would be involved. As a learning device to get to understand the concept of contexts this is satisfactory. As a practical device to use in Learning Design I am not so sure.

The Ecology of Resources (EoR) approach consisted of three phases and seemed to be based on pedagogy - in this case Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development (explained here, slides 21 to 31). The idea of a Zone of Proximal Adjustment (ZPA) is used as is the idea of More Able Partners (MAPs - could this be based on Paolo Freire's "Act of Knowing"? see slides 7 to 13 from the same Slideshare presentation).
The design goal is to "redesign learner contexts so as to optimise opportunities for interactions with social and other resources capable of assisting learners perform towards their objectives" and the design is a ZPA.
The three (iterative) processes are:

Phase 1: create model of resources potentially available to assist learners and filters that constrain learner interactions with these resources. Identify forms of assistance and potential MAPs.
    • BRAINSTORM potential resources in an Ecology of Resources
    • SPECIFY FOCUS OF ATTENTION - decide which resources to focus on
      • Knowledge and skills
      • People and tools
      • Environment
    • IDENTIFYING FILTERS - things that influence availability of potential resources
    • IDENTIFYING LEARNER RESOURCES - brought by learners
    • INTERACTIONS - reviewing focus of attention to obtain OPTIMAL SET OF FORMS OF ASSISTANCE (from ZPD to ZPA)
Phase 2: identify relationships so as to better understand how these are independent and are opportunities (amongst LEARNER, RESOURCES, FILTERS). Which are influential relationships, component relationships, typology relationships, social relationships?

Phase 3: Design adjustments to make right resources available at the right time - produce SCAFFOLDING and ADJUSTMENT.

    I did find the scaffolding designed for this OLDS MOOC tight and too detailed. I accept that this was designed for many and so this approach might suit some. As pointed out by Josh in Tuesday's convergence session, these are learning processes which will generate a check list for your context, eventually.
    This type of contexts definition is useful to do even in a school setting. What are we missing or ignoring which are filters to learning?
    I wondered about the cultural contexts in particular in terms of teachers new to a particular school or country (see extract from the mindmap produced for this course). But there are other areas which are important for us to take into account when designing learning.

    Saturday, 19 January 2013

    Learning Design gone mad - OLDS MOOC

    Desperately trying to follow the learning plan for Week 2 - but it is too prescriptive. Supposedly, the principles of Learning Design have been followed to design this OLDS MOOC. Oh dear.
    Having a day by day activity list with the Thursday (day one) task being to "plan your week" is an example of poor context definition. How can you plan for what you do not know and for collaborative tasks you cannot find? Is it just a matter of putting down some times in a calendar? I am meant to make sense of this outline:
    Present your contextual analysis (of the project? have not even determined a group to work with). Comment on others' analysis (where are they? most learning journals seem empty).
    The highly structured, day by day defined activities do not fit the context of a MOOC with a diverse group of learners. I know if I prepared something like this for my classes, in such a rigid and structured way, it would all go awry in no time.
    I am doing the reading but cannot contribute in the way that the highly scaffolded daily activities are asking.
    Not looking very encouraging.... too prescriptive, too unrealistically scaffolded. Fine for classic left-brained sequentialists, how about the other half?? What sort of context planning is this?

    Friday, 18 January 2013

    Looking back at the first week - OLDS MOOC

    Time flies!
    I know from other MOOCs that I have done that the first few days (weeks?) in a new MOOC experience can be unsettling and frustrating. But I found that by persevering and having some faith that you will get there in the end brought great rewards (testing my growth mindset to the limit! - see Dweck). #change11 was the most rewarding MOOC - and also the most frustrating at the beginning; this was a constructivist MOOC and I had not realised how imbibed with this approach I had become.
    OLDS MOOC was frustrating at first because of a constraining communications and sharing platform - Cloudworks. To fulfill the communications and sharing aspect, finding pages again and being able to interact across pages are key requirements. I did not find success in these requirements - come back Stephen Downes and his website all is forgiven! Although it needed much work on his part to keep up to date, it fulfilled its purpose well.
    I've had a go at trying out existing social media for communications and sharing and this is showing promise. Twitter is always good for this but I am really warming to Google + Communities. This has the potential of being an excellent platform for this (have been using it with my family and have been really pleased with it - personal, private, instant and fun).
    I set up "OLDS MOOC - Schools" community to try to generate interest in this subdivision of Learning Design and it has eleven members at the time of writing. Glad to have help from Penny Bentley which I have found encouraging.
    The idea behind this community was to be a study group with a special interest (Learning Design is schools), but I have yet to establish a project. Cloudworks did not work for me for this and had hopes that Wallwisher would - yet to see if this will generate an interest in Learning Design in schools using Google Apps suite of programmes. Perhaps it is too specific - if no interest is shown I shall have to look again.
    Looking forward to week 2 - although I note that the day-by-day structure of the course is very specific and requires you to keep up. Some of us do have jobs and the daily requirement is proving difficult. Also, having not found a project yet I am not sure how this week will work.
    We shall see.

    Friday, 11 January 2013

    Introducing Learning Design - OLDSMOOC Wk1

    Yishay Mor introduces us to Learning Design in his presentation for the #oldsmooc in week 1. He differentiates between "Craft" and "Design" in Education, concluding that Design is "making stuff better" with Learning is turning information into knowledge, Teaching is shaping learning and Education is learning design ("devising new practices, plans of activity, resources and tools aimed at achieving particular educational aims in a given situation", from his article with B Craft, 2012).
    He talks about other definitions of Learning Design, involving other foci, and other approaches. Words are confusing here - Instructional Design vs Learning Design - same thing? I wonder if there is an ocean between what people mean with each of these. Instructional seems very teacher directed, learning seems much more student focused. I do not agree with Mor's idea that it is simply potayto and potahto.
    He ends with the cycle for Learning Design which forms the approach of this MOOC.

    Is this the only approach to Learning Design? Here is David Lynch of CQ University going through the 8 learning management questions of his approach to produce a learning management plan:

    MYP - new learning and assessment design

    The International Baccalaureate Organisation has been working on changing their 11-16 years Middle Years Programme (MYP). This is being done to ensure a better continuity for the three programmes - Primary Years (PYP), MYP and the Diploma Programme (DP - and also their Career Related Certificate, I assume).
    The MYP has always involved a holistic learning approach and certainly has been criticized as a poor preparation for the DP.
    Malcolm Nicolson, the IB's Head of MYP Development, describes the new MYP in the latest issue of International School Magazine (IS - ECIS magazine, Vol 15 Issue 2, published by John Catt Education). This is an interesting account since a key feature of current IB thinking is "conceptual understanding", and this is described in operation in one of the IB programmes.
    "The result is an innovative, concept-based and appropriately assessed programme for 11-16 year olds" (p26). Students will be able to choose six of eight subject groups in the final two years and so can allow for some specialism.
    Nicolson describes the new MYP assessment: how students "use their knowledge to address challenging questions in unfamiliar situations using conceptual understanding ...  The assessment design ... draws from the central importance of concept based learning."
    The MYP will provide a number of set disciplinary and interdisciplinary prescribed concepts, the "understanding of which can be demonstrated and assessed".
    Another interesting feature is the use of technology - on screen and not on books. A very definite rich media environment is sought and will be used for both stimulus material and for e-assessments - "paper versions are neither possible nor provided".
    Nicolson describes this attempt also as diminishing the negative "backwash" effects of assessment on learning and that the e-assessments "set challenging questions on unfamiliar source material".
    The Personal Project will be moderated in the fifth year of the programme (with some differences from those who use this programme in a true middle school).
    This "new chapter" for the MYP is very welcome and I am really interested in the learning design aspects that this generates. Not just from the emphasis on conceptual understanding but also the way that technology is blended (more than blended - totally imposed) on the programme.

    See also: IB Diploma changes