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Very smart, capable, aware people this week have been reduced to frustrated, desperate, luddites. It’s time to enter grades into the learning management system (LMS) and it has been painful….

People keep asking why can’t the academics just know what to do, after all grades happen twice a year and they do this all the time so why don’t they just know how it works?¬†Well, because it changes. First of all, upgrades and bug fixes mean that the LMS operates slightly differently each time. Also, there are at least 15 different reasons why something may not work so just because you know why your site total didn’t add up last time, the reason it doesn’t add up this time is completely different.

Academics by their profession are creative, challenging thinkers. They are not intrinsically technology literate and logical problem solvers. Of course this is a massive generalisation (I don’t support the information technology academics at all with the LMS!). But on the whole, the academics I’ve supported are qualitative researchers and creative, innovative teachers. Stepping through technology that is counterintuitive is not really their thing.

So to those people who keep asking why can’t academics just get it right? I say, because they are trying very hard to get everything else right, the LMS just doesn’t rate. Perhaps the question we should be asking, is how do we better support academics and their relationship with the LMS so that they don’t finish grade weeks feeling stupid and useless? Just my two cents worth.

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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!

Okay – I know that the heading of this post shows my age, and that some people have never seen a typing pool, but I really think it needs to come back. Well, not it, we don’t have type writers anymore, but the principle.

On Friday my boss was asked to do some budget stuff. She’s an expert wordsmith. She’s a lawyer by training and she is brilliant and problem resolution and scenario analysis. She is not what you would call a numbers person. And yet, to complete the task she’s been given, there needs to be budget work. I offered to take it on because (as you can tell) words are not really my thing and I’m not great at scenario analysis. We complement each other that way. But the question is, why do we ask people to do things they aren’t trained, experienced in?

A more real application is in my role where I’m teaching academics how to use editing software to get their lectures organised for online presentation. I’m coming to the conclusion we need an ‘editing pool’. We are wasting in opportunity cost the time the academics are spending to edit.

But, on the other hand, by editing their lectures, they actually have to listen to what they have produced. They have to think about their style and approach. They are learning about what they do as a teacher. And this is valuable.

So maybe it is worth teaching everyone a little bit about every skill so that they can gain a fuller picture of the world they live and work in? Moving from having a typing pool to people doing their own document development meant they could better visualise what the final version would be. They could alter their language as they edited their own material and refine their work to produce a higher quality product. (Yes, okay, not always…..but stay with the vision). But having a typing pool meant that people didn’t have to learn skill of typing, they could do what they were best at. They could perform to their competitive advantage. I think I’m stepping into the conversation that we are becoming a population of generalists, which is starting to step into the PhD planning of mine. I love that my job is directly linked to my interests. It’s true, do what you love and you never work a day in your life.

This brings me back to the beginning. I like budgets. I think they are an interesting problem. More to the point, I’ve done them in the past and even have some training. It’s insane to expect my boss to do the budget. It’s sensible to ask me. I think the question I have, is it insane to ask academics to learn how to use editing software?

With all advances in the use of technology there is a lag between what users want and need and what the infrastructure of the organisation can provide. The lag between technology advances and legislation change is even greater.

It dawned on me yesterday that these lags are now combining forces to create an unworkable world. The systemic technology issues I am encountering are on the rise simply because I’m starting to move from planning with academics to implementation. What I find most interesting (and I’ve posted about this before) is that we are asking all people to be all things to fix these issues. We are asking the educational designers to fix the ICT when really it’s a university wide infrastructure issue. For this project, the increased uptake and application of the online environment in education, there really should have been a technology auditor existing structures, identification of what is likely to be required, 3, 5 and 10 years out, and the. A road map developed of how to make that happen including expected budget allocation. But because there wasn’t an IT infrastructure person in the room, this never came up.

In education we spend too long asking teachers/academics to fulfill every organisational role. Would we ever ask a heart surgeon to conduct brain surgery?

Anyway, why did I call this chicken and egg? Because there is no point in asking academic to make greater use of the online environment if we haven’t first built a stable, effective and useable environment for them to use. They are trying to make the chicken when there has been no egg. (I personally believe the egg came first because reptiles have eggs and they were around before birds. That’s my logic and I’m sticking with it!)

So, please, someone tell me where I can buy an egg?

Today was one of those days where you think, “really? I work with this stupid technology stuff?”. It was a day where the help desk had put an editing program onto an academic’s computer but it was build number 2 when the rest of us have build number 16. So nothing worked like it should. It was a day where I got the email pointing out that the Moodle template we were issuing for all units had grammar errors – bad ones – and I (the English teacher) hadn’t seen them. It was a day where I spent too much time trying to debug issues for people when it really should have taken two seconds and then, to top it off, the printer didn’t work. I wanted to be a good corporate citizen and fix the issue so turned it off, on, checked ethernet cables, turned it of and on again and then finally reported it to be told, “Oh yeah, they’re down across the University”. *sigh*

But then I came home. My inbox was overflowing with new posts on the blogs I follow. And I settled down to read.

And I was amazed.

People in this world are so smart and they a thinking, hard, about technology in education and how we use it, how we should use it and when we should walk away. In this job I’m trying to convince people that technology is an asset in education, when, like all tools, it is used properly. Days like today remind me that even when it used properly, sometimes it won’t work properly. And then the people remind me that even when it’s not working, there still time to think about it and talk about it, to make it better.

Thank you to people who think about technology in education. And thank you to the people who share those thoughts and for those who comment. Sometimes I need a reminder that the conversation is beneficial – now to remember to have it tomorrow with the wonderful people I work with rather than just telling them that technology is the best……

 

 

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!

A couple of conversations I’ve had this week have made me think seriously about the advantages of creation versus repurpose. It’s come up in relation to support material for students that the faculty is developing. This material is outside the core content of units but will support student success.

The example in my head is Excel. There is lots of excellent material on line for Excel training. I know, I’ve used it. However, I used the Microsoft tutorials as I was starting at a base level and students were toe demonstrate basic operational skills for summative assessment. Someone else was telling me about a different site they used and that was just two of us.

Given the faculty has a clear idea of what skills they want students to have in relation to Excel and they have the skills themselves and the ability to create content, isn’t it just quicker for them to create the content they want? What is the time cost of finding the right sort of content to repurpose versus just doing it yourself? I didn’t know about the Microsoft tutorials. Someone else told me. I had done searches but my brain went to YouTube (maybe it shows where I spend too much time!). I personally hadn’t thought to go elsewhere. I was pushed for time, it was only one of my five subjects, I had to research for other units, and I was in that scary place that teachers can get to, I knew it all so I was going to chalk and talk it. This approach in IT is deadly. Students can’t self-pace, they lose interest and in the high school context it leads to behaviour issues. So, I was saved by someone else.

All this leads me to the question of how how do we know what to repurpose? Who tells us about cool stuff we can use? Do we go to ‘commons‘ and see what people are doing? Do we search “Showme“? Do we search google? And then once we’ve found it, we have to consume it ourselves to work out what can be repurposed to meet our needs. I completed all the Microsoft tutorials before setting them for my students to make sure the content was useful, met my needs and didn’t have anything too outside the requirements I was seeking. This took time. Would it have been quicker for me to just create? Is this actually the age old issue of why delegate when I can just do it? Maybe because the answer is, if you do extra time today, tomorrow you won’t have to do it at all. Hmmm more stuff to think about.

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