Thursday, 25 February 2016

WBLT #3: e-Learner: evidence of participation in an online event as a learner and a critical account of the experience.

Can we harness technology for ludic and emancipatory practice?

Web-based learning and teaching (WBLT) exists in a continuum from courses that are completely online to more blended approaches where F2F teaching is either supported by use of ICT or, and this is a more contested proposition, ‘enhanced’ by ICT in some way… Now I love the fact that the web is there to support my teaching, my learning – and a whole heap of other things as well… (who could not love something that offers you access to the Banana Song - - when your class is getting a bit sleepy from all those big heavy thoughts?) – but given that Education has and can adapt to continual technological advances – printing press, radio, television – why the continual top down Government emphasis on eLearning (our critique of Government policy on e-learning – and where does it offer the opportunity for bringing the ludic ( - the play-to-learn opportunities) into education?
What about the pedagogy?
My preparation for #WBLT was to engage lightly with @HybridPed’s mini-MOOC: - which starts with the argument that much of what happens in eLearning is influenced by Instructional Design emanating from the Computer Aided Instruction models that emerged in the fifties (see My problem is that this model seems to emerge from a form of technological determinism ( rather that a critical engagement with education itself: who and what is education for? How can education be emancipatory and transformative? How can education facilitate action – especially by the previously powerless? Viz. Freire (
 When exploring “E-learning and Digital Cultures” (my first MOOC taken January 2013 – and interesting because it was a five-week MOOC taken by some 44,000 people – and embedded within an MSc module: at Edinburgh University) we started with the culture – and models of utopia and dystopia; transhumanism and post-humanism. We explored these ideas through engagement with theoretical texts and videos freely available on the web and the final assessment was to produce an artefact that reflected on the course – and to peer review at least three artefacts produced by other participants.
Tell them about #edcmooc mummy
#edcmooc itself modelled for me in practice what the web does offer educationalists: a chance to develop ludic approaches to thinking and learning – and to assessment. Our artefacts were produced often collaboratively as we reached out to other participants for help and guidance – and we all poured much thought and effort and dialogic behaviour into the production of our digital things. The very act of being part of that MOOC helped me to begin to create my own PLN (personal learning network) – which has since grown as I have participated in other MOOCs – and I have followed the rhizomatic threads and connections of the people I first encountered in my web-enabled learning journey.
Given that that experience was so positive and so life- and learning-enhancing, I am now re-reading Sian Bayne from Edinburgh University to help with wrestle with #WBLT – especially as Bayne critiques the field in an emancipatory way (Bayne, S. (2014) What’s the matter with ‘Technology Enhanced Learning’?. Learning, Media and Technology, DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2014.915851.
What is it like to be a learner in the 21st century?
To be a learner today is to live in a world designed by high-functioning socio-paths: never have I in the UK seen so much inequity and injustice. Never have I seen education so trammelled and controlled by rules, regulations; surveillance and control ( This world of SATs and tests and League Tables and the corporate takeover of schools by the so-called Free School initiative contributes to what Mayall calls the ‘scholarisation of childhood’ ( a valorisation of what is called education at the expense of learning, joy and growth.
Yes, this world also has the world wide web in it – but whilst it is argued that this is busily re-wiring our brains and the ways that we think – and it is argued that this facilitates access to information (and it does!) – I cannot help but place successive Governments’ policy for eLearning within the context of their desire to control citizens – rather than seeing this as any emancipatory thrust.
At the same time, I must live with hope – and so attempt to harness technology in my practice to enable students to collaborate, to be creative, to play to learn – and to write themselves as they develop their own voice and power negotiating the arcane and exclusionary practices of HE (viz.
So - in my teaching - I ask my students to Develop a Digital Me – a wide ranging brief that allows them to play with different animation and comic book tools to develop their own stories about themselves or about learning. Some of their most recent digital artefacts are captured here: - please do have a look at them – and see what you think.
I think this brief enabled them to play with – rather than be controlled by - either the technology itself or the overarching control paradigm that inhabits all of the education narrative. It also helps to shift the essay’s monolithic domination of the assignment repertoire – allowing students to collaborate and cooperate; to explore and discover: to be discursive and emergent rather than recursive and controlled… Now that’s got to be worth something – hasn’t it? Now how to bring that into a Web Development Module!
So, I turn the question back on you – given that education can mean ‘leading out’, given that we can be with Freire and want to empower our students for action – how and why do you use technology in your teaching and learning? 

Friday, 19 February 2016

#WBLT#2: eDesigner - Getting started

The journey to crafting an engaging and liberating course begins. We sketched what a GREAT online course would look like and I have turned that into a poem to eDesign. First we played with Course Sites – then we had the #WBLT session… then back to Course Sites for more tinkering.  It IS FUN!! And it is means that we have started the journey to our first low stakes formative assessment: storyboarding our VMLE – in Course Sites.






For novice








FB it – dammit!

Tweet: Always?

Assessment and Feedback




Aims & LOs

Feedback – enabled:

Haec Dragones Sunt!!



Support and Contact








Oh - those videos…


Evolve or die.










Can we design …  a football match?


Key considerations:

Evaluating needs – including: what is my MLE? What does it offer? Who are my students – what are their strengths and needs? What is this course?

Organising materials.

Defining goals.

Selecting instructional mode and techniques.

Content sequence.

Assessment and Feedback.

Student feedback.

Tip: See also: - six considerations – below - my italics!

6 Principles of Critical Pedagogical Course Design

Every Digital Pedagogy Lab Course keeps in mind the following:

Content is #1: Content does not equate to learning, but should instead form the foundation for inquiry, discussion, dissension, and the production (not, never, no-way-no-how the consumption) of knowledge. Content is a proposal; no one should ever be quizzed on content. Content is not there to digest or memorize, it’s there to inspect, laugh about, jump off from.

To this end, we keep content as minimal as possible, and include always the spur toward dialogue. Not reading, not memorizing, not passing tests. Joining in. Content needs to be the ground upon which we meet, not the basis for what we learn.

Narrative structure: All courses are compositions, and as such they should tell a story. In this, I am referring both literally and also more generally to the idea of story. I believe that teaching should utilize anecdote, storytelling, performance in specific moments, but I also believe that any course should follow a narrative arc. An online course cannot be a series of handouts followed by a quiz. The course should begin one place and end someplace decidedly elsewhere… someplace learner and teacher mutually discover. The best courses are as engaging as the best stories, and they don’t neglect aesthetic considerations.

Open-ended questions: Yes or no questions are for computers, not people. If the answer to a classroom question is “yes” or “no”, it may as well be rhetorical for all the good it does. Pedagogically, open-ended questions are one of the simplest, least threatening ways to abdicate authority. If we are truly curious about what learners think, then we need to leave lots of room for their reasoning, musing, and questioning. And sometimes the best answers are questions.

It’s also important to use questions to spin off from content. Never ask for regurgitation of information. Why would we want it? Don’t we already know that particular answer? Can we let discussions grow out of content instead of asking participants to remind us of what we’ve said?

Actual work, no busy: Activity in a course should never be empty. Just as the answers to questions should not merely (blandly, boringly) repeat what’s been said already, neither should the work in a course require nothing more than an understanding of content. Learning isn’t an act of recall, so activities that support learning shouldn’t aim to demonstrate recall.

No assessments: I was recently asked by a colleague about a course Digital Pedagogy Lab will offer in Fall 2016, “What’s the method of assessment?” I responded, “Completion, whatever that means.” A course should be challenging enough that just getting through it is an accomplishment (and compelling enough that learners want to get to the end of the story). Jesse wrote that “there is no authority in the course except insofar as everyone is an authority.” The notion that teachers, above learners themselves, have more authority over assessment is absurd.

Business casual: Something happens when we go to write our very first page inside the LMS. We suddenly become the very old, white, male, tight-lipped scholar who can’t use contractions or ellipses or emoticons or ironic parentheticals or risky language (or run-on sentences). Even those of us who are not grammar guardians become hypervigilant about sounding like the stony, unapproachable expert. Most teachers sound nothing like themselves when they write online; and yet voice sets the tone in an online course. Perfect grammar shakes no one’s hand, gives no hugs.


So – I’ve had a go at setting up my course sites course:
Congratulations! You created your course and are almost finished! Now, it's time to let your students know about your course! Below are a few ways to get them started.
1.      Have them visit your CourseSites Instructor Home Page at:
2.      Have them enroll, request enrollment or login directly from the Course Home Page at:
3.      Invite, Enroll, or Create students from within the course.
View Tutorial   Download Instructor Guide

Big buzzy moments

I managed to get into Course Sites - and after applying a colour scheme, changed the name of the site to include my name so that the tutors can find it (never forget simple ways to make life easier). Invited the tutors to be students on my course then wrestled with a teaching style/course structure. 

Guess which one I chose:

Activity: hands-on, fieldwork, PBL – with conversations and live chat

Case Study: develops knowledge through cases – enabling brainstorming, blogging and the application of theory.

Conference session: allowing collaboration in a web environment.

Constructivism: facilitating the construction of learning – with groups, sharing, knowledge-base and reflection.

Expedition-based: active/exploratory – with base camp, storytelling and My Trip Journal.

Experiential: knowledge created through concrete experiences – hands-on plus reflection. Round table, our blogs and my reactions.

Well – I have chosen Experiential ATM – though really I’m leaning towards Expedition-based… So watch this space.

E-Designer tip: Looking for inspiration from the Connected Courses site: