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I was lucky enough to present with my colleague Shane at Moodleposium yesterday. When we were planning for the session he and I agreed that we wanted some knowledge from the attendees as well as sharing our experiences. As such, ewe asked a posit-it note question and got the answers into categories that we then shared. The question was, “Badges’ role in pedagogy is…”. What we got was:

Carrot concepts as the majority: “Encouragement” “gamification as open incentive” “encouraging excellence and participation” “reward, initiative for learning, significance of badges” “Recognition” Incentive” “Reward for effort and recognition of work completed” “motivation recognition”.

The next sort of category turned out to relate to retention type approaches: “Better learning?” social constructivist – fostering collective interest in learning” “motivation increase desire to learn and achieve” “it helps make scaffolding explicit” “verified competition” student tracking progress” “help you to know where your level is as a learner”

Then there were some ideas that didn’t really fit in to a set theme: “life of badges without e-portfolio” “to recognise skills that are not 100% part of the university curriculum BUT have value for other societal functions” “recognition of prior learning”

So what do Shane and I do with this feedback now? Well in relation to the bolt on modules that have been developed we can place their purpose more clearly within the carrot framework and think harder about the retention aspects. Providing students with instant knowledge of where they are at in their learning is key to the success of the modules, but is one aspect I’ve not put enough thought into. We also haven’t promoted the use of the modules to academics for uptake by students, but this feedback provides a strong basis to develop that communique from. I feel like I’ve let a good project slide a little because of time. Having this feedback helps provide incentive to pick it up again. Now to see what else I can let slide!

Interestingly I started another blog for my certificate II that I’m trying to complete. After missing the point of the exercise several times I finally got there. (A big thank you to Carol Green for her patience…..) Although I’ve not passed yet so I shouldn’t be counting chickens.

Anyway, as part of that blog we are discussing Plato and the allegory of the cave. A part of me wishes I’d come across this 20 years ago, but then again, I may not have placed such importance on the concepts when I was that age. Apparently timing is everything. So, we have come to a discussion of truth. What is it and how do we know it when we do see it? While it’s been an interesting conversation to have with friends on a blog, for me, it actually relates to the world of higher education today.

Truth for academics (as I refer to a lot) is a mixture of research, teaching, technology support, administration, adherence to what appear to be obscure and arcane rules and generally a lot of work. For the first time this week, in real terms, I started to think about what is the truth for students. What are they seeking from higher education and what are we actually providing?

In our rush to go online and become flexible, is the truth that we have left students behind wondering where the lecture went? In an age of information where students can have an answer at their finger tips, is the truth that they have no idea how to research effectively and don’t know the right answer when it appears on the screen? Are we actually facing a truth in higher education that there is no digital native?

It’s been a while since I posted on this blog (been blogging elsewhere) and it’s also been a while since I did any research, so I think for the moment my truth is I need to research more and think more about what the learning experience is for students. In the mean time, I think the truth really is that the sunset tonight is amazing.

 

This week I had a meeting in Melbourne where I was privileged to see great brains in action. There was a concept that the Dean outlined and then over the course of a few hours, the meat was put on the bones until something very real (and totally awesome I think!) was crated.

During this process and more so, once it was complete, we began reflecting. Why do we have the courses we offer? Are they the courses we should offer? What is it that students really want? What should they really be getting?

This thought process ties in with the ‘at elbow’ work I do with individual academics. They are being asked to become more flexible and engaging and sometimes without understanding why. It’s easy to give the party line of greater engagement leads to better learning outcomes leading to better retention which is better for everyone, students and university alike. But why would one academic change their approach if their approach works? Well, the question then becomes how do we know something works?

Currently the performance framework for academics is, from my governance background and business planning and strategy development work, counter productive. A large percentage of their teaching success is based on the popularity contest of the student satisfaction surveys. This is skewed as they are not compulsory to complete and so will often be completed only by those people who are unhappy with the unit. It also encourages behaviour from academics to pander to weak students so as to keep satisfaction up. We are undermining the whole point of rigorous higher education. But then, you see, I do some googling (not nearly sophisticated enough to call it research) and then I find Chapter Three of this report. That then leads to me to the AUSSE site. And I find that lots of people are thinking about how we measure engagement, how we respond to that measurement, and well, understanding why we do what we do.

Chapter Three (Alexandra Radloff & Hamish Coates) states that we need to measure not just student satisfaction to understand why we do what we do and why we change, but their engagement. A happy student is not enough. “..learning is formative and the effects are for life, while¬†consumer happiness and satisfaction are ephemeral in any domain.” I need to work out how to support the academics I work with to measure engagement, so they can understand why change is needed, or more fundamentally, to determine IF change is needed at all. It is important for me to understand why I do what I do – that is to help understanding in others, not force them to ‘flip’ for no reason at all.

Reading a post on my fast becoming favourite blog and nodding wisely at the content. Husband comes up and has a read over my shoulder. I summarise for him that it’s asking if kids can learn online. Because he’s brilliant (and he really is) he says:

Of course kids can learn online, but what are they learning?

This is brilliant. Okay, maybe you all knew this. Maybe this is not the revelation I think it is. But it’s the first time I’ve thought of the gaps between what we plan to teach and what they actually learn. It might be that they learn heaps of valuable stuff but it is not what was actually planned. Of course the next question is:

If they aren’t learning what was intended, but they are still learning, does it matter?

And now it’s starting to feel a little like “If a tree falls in the forrest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” But seriously, this is doing my head in. Online learning has just become something totally cool…….but now I really need to work how we measure it.

I did a quick re-read of this blog site this morning and realised that it is starting to become a real collection of brain stuff for me. Wait – that sounded better in my brain….

This site is building quite nicely into a collection of resources and analysis that I see value in for the future for me. (That’s better!)

Last night though, I was reminded that the best resource I have are the smart people in my life. Iain and Katie and I got together and had a brain storm about what we would like to do to address some of the disconnects in high schools in relation to technology. We have together developed a cunning plan. It is a plan that I would never have been able to think up by myself. I needed others.

I’ve talked a lot about this in relation to my current job. I need others to identify and develop solutions for the academics I’m trying to support. All cunning plans need conspirators.

Last night I spoke to Katie and Iain about choosing complementary conspirators. I think they thought I was being a little crazy. But I’ve been involved in a few plans (most of them not that cunning, but, they were plans) that have gone terribly south all because I chose crappy conspirators. I chose people (or people chose me on rare occasions where someone thought I would be useful!) who I thought would be great, but when it came to going over the top of the trench to meet the challenge, they had to suddenly be elsewhere. That left me alone at the top watching the gun fire reign down.

My husband says I try to help people too much. I think he’s right. I do try. I don’t always succeed and that annoys me. I don’t take to failure too well. The cunning plan in motion is ambitious and tries to help all high school students in the ACT. My husband is right – I try too much. This time there is no try, thanks to Yoda there is only do or do not. Iain, Katie – stuff it – let’s do it!

Yesterday I was working on presenting a Word document into Powtoon¬†to demonstrate to academics different media in presenting information. Basically I’m trying to model the type of actions the project I’m working on is trying to bring about.

Anyway, I start by putting the same text of the document into the multimedia. I get to ‘slide’ 4 and am completely struggling. Why am I struggling? What is the mental barrier? Why isn’t this doing what I want it to do?

I go for a walk, get some water. and think.

Then, it happens. That moment where it all comes together. Oh! It’s different! Different media means different delivery. Don’t cut and paste from the document, think about the message in the document and then present it in the multimedia format!

Then it all falls into place. The message is the same – combine your delivery styles, don’t just use the same approach all the time, but it’s told in two very different ways. This of course has flow on effects for my thinking. We are asking academics to adopt new delivery techniques but have we told them that this means thinking about their message in a different way? Do we need to or will they just know? How do we scaffold this so that they can do it? I work with ICT a lot and it took me a while to do the brain shift (and I’ve done it before!!!). How do we best support people for whom this is a whole new experience?

Seriously – the more I think about this, the more I can see opportunities to support staff. But how do I do that with just me? Hmmm….to find out what I can leverage where!

Thank you Steve for helping me when I was lost:

“The purpose of a university, for me, is to prepare students for what is today and what will be in the tomorrow.”

That means knowledge, skills and their workplace applications are important, but so is the ability to think outside the box. How does that fit into higher education policy today?

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