Monthly Archives: May 2014

#ocTEL Week 3 Resources

Resources and more to watch, read, and research

Sources on OER and re-use:

On accessibility and design

On technology and platforms

#ocTEL Week 3 Only One Thing

Take the perspective of a learner and spend some time using:

As usual, when I’m interested/motivated, I find it very difficult just to do one thing. It’s what one of my good friends and colleagues calls FOMS – Fear of Missing Something – or something like that. Anyway, it’s how I am and it seems to become even more so in open, online, resource-rich environments – very time-consuming or chronophage, as we say here in France !

Anyway, all that just to say that I found it hard to limit myself to one of each. Perhaps it’s just plain old greed 😉

Kahn Academy – Art History – 1960-  Post-Colonialist :

I enjoyed the videos I watched and was engaged by the discussions. However, it didn’t feel much like a « class ». The idea of getting points did appeal to me (as the badge system here on ocTEL has). In the question forum there seemed to be a great mix of « levels » and the questions ranged from the very naive to a quite sophisticated level. I was also a bit thrown by the fact that most of the questions dated from almost two years ago and that, rightly or wrongly, got me questioning the relevance/appeal/ of the whole thing. I think I will quite possibly use this as a useful resource in the future for getting an overview of the subject.

The first thing I tried on the ElearningExamples site was : This turned out to be a bit of a waste of time as I couldn’t play as it needs a mouse with a scroll wheel and I was travelling and only had my little hybrid PC/tablet with me.

I tried a couple more that didn’t really go anywhere for me :

I couldn’t find where to try the game ! I just kept being sent back to an article and never found the way to play the thing.

This was quick, easy and fun and revealed what the world has known about me for years :


  • The next one I tried was an interesting little activity aimed at seeing what people know about the positions of the different presidential election candiates on certain ideas and seeing how closely you personally identify with those. It also allows people to get a bit more information on the stances of the candidates on these topics. Rather unsurprisingly, I did not agree with very much that Mitt Romney was touting. by USA Today – very much « grand public »The last thing I looked at was the iEthicS simulation:
  •  I really liked this and can see many, many applications, variations and adaptations of it. The first thing that grabbed me was the quality  of the videos, the « naturalness » of the actors and the general « authenticity » that seemed to surround the situation – I think here I’m probably  being very « naive » as I know next to nothing about the subject – that has advantages and disadvantages – but I was caught up right from the start in the situation and felt involved and wanted to find out what was going to happen. This kind of « critical incident » approach is exactly the kind of thing I can use in my own classes about intercultural communication and working in intercultural teams and I would love to be able to make videos of this quality based on the vignettes and case studies I have.
  • The different resources appealed to different learner levels and in different ways. I personally enjoyed learning some new things (Khan Academy), testing my knowledge about a specific subject area (the USA Today political policies game), learning things about myself (the 6 personas of creativity game) and then finally the iEthics simulation which was a rich, multi-level learning experience which I am still mulling over 24hrs later. What would be really interesting would be finding a way to blend all of the different elements into one learning activity. That’s an exciting challenge 😉


#ocTEL Week 3 Activity 3.1: Creating your own materials

Have a look at one of the following tools (choose one you are not already familiar with) and consider its application in your context.

  • How easy was it to understand how this tool worked?
  • How quickly and easily would you find it to use?
  • How could you apply this tool in your own teaching?
  • What does this tool offer that has advantages over your current practice?

The choice here of a tool with which I was not familiar was very easy as I had never heard of, let alone, tried, any of them. So, having not much else to do on this rainy, grey Saturday morning, I threw myself with great gusto into trying them out.

The first deception came quite quickly. At first glance, Xerte looked like a really interesting option with a whole suite of tools and some very encouraging comments by happy users on the home page. So, without further ado, I set about downloading it. I figured that the smart thing to do would be to start with the most recent version. I downloaded that but didn’t get any invite at the end to execute the programme. After messing around looking for exec. File on my computer, I decided to try downloading the other programmes that were on offer. After doing that, I finally decided to take a look at some of the other pages and came across instructions of how to do this – already feeling quite peeved by the whole experience, being told that I had to install something else, reconfigure something or another and then move some files from one place to another… well, let’s just say it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. So, for the moment, and until I build up the courage and find the time to go back to this, Xerte is inert on my computer and I have no idea what I could potentially do with it.

I don’t expect to have to go through this kind of manipulation now to install software. I can do it, but I really don’t like to have to do it – especially for the sake of evaluatiing the potential usefulness of the thing 😉

So, I decided to have a look at another one and took a logical, linear approach moving straight to Glomaker. I checked out one of the samples about referencing work and, yes, I could see possibilities with this. Again there were technical glitches with the questions – most of them didn’t work on my computer. However, it already had an « old-fashioned » feel about it so I didn’t stay around too long.

Cmap, Popplet and Mindjet are not for me at the moment. I don’t seem to think in a way that fits into this kind of mapping and I quickly decided that I didn’t want to spend any time with these – I have played about with this kind of thing in the past and still have some software that I unstalled and which has remained untouched since my initial trials. Oh, yes, the other thing about these programmes that put me off was that they weren’t all  free.

Next came Touchcast and that had me REALLY excited. I wanted to get stuck into that immediately. By the time the preview video was finished I was already thinking about how, when and where I could use this. Then the fun and games started. It’s a beta version, no direct download etc. Anyway, I signed up received the email, created my account and got ready to start. I was able to watch one sample Touchcast and then clicked on the create button. The programme crashed and an error message was sent. I tried 3 times and 3 times the programme crashed. I rebooted the computer and tried again, it crashed. I gave up and moved to the next one on the list – Camtasia.

Camtasia – thanks, but no thanks. Same for Jing. Paying, free trials etc. I tjhink I’m becoming really addicted to the idea of « open ». Nothing like the buzz that I had when arriving on the Touchcast site. It already felt « old » – it’s starting to remind me of the last time I was in Berlin moving from the old eastern side to the western and vice versa.

Screencast-o-matic – Lots of things I didn’t like about some of the others, rolled into one ! Probably way too harsh, but I’m done with looking at these things for one day.

I was looking forward to this activity. It ended up eating up my whole Saturday morning (and now part of my Saturday evening) and I haven’t really been able to evaluate anything or answer all the questions posed. I will try and go back to Xerte as something tells me that it’s worth making the effort and I will definitely persevere with Touchcast as I think this has huge potential. Anyway, I think I deserve a badge today just for hanging in there 😉  Quite seriously, this activity – without really having produced anything tangible (activity, video etc.) has taken me more like 3-6 hours than 30-60 minutes 😉

Here are some cool things other participants have suggested:

A French tool – coccoricco, as they say over here – that I will check out. Thanks to Julie Tardy for pointing this one out on her blog.

Thanks to Elizabeth E Charles for this one :

A nice example of how Screencast-o-matic can be used to change a Powerpoint presentation into a different format :

Thanks to Moira Sarsfield for sharing this.

#ocTEL Week 2 Active Play

Over recent decades, game-based learning has grown as a form of TEL. It encapsulates many principles of active learning, such as engagement in an authentic context, learning by mistake-making and reflection, experiential learning, collaborative learning and learning by problem-solving. As such, it is worth considering the techniques that games use to engage learners and what can be learned from them.

Play one of the following games for 15 minutes (longer if you like):

So, I tried out Lost in the City. I failed to get past the first mission and had to start again. The second time I managed to succeed in the mission quite quickly and I had learned from my mistakes and come up with a winning strategy. I was feeling quite pleased with myself as I moved to the second mission and I managed to do the first part of this just before my time ran out. I felt I was starting to understand how the game was set up and the logic it used. Unfortunately, I failed to find the code to get into the attic (maths and any form of numbers has never been my strong point and tends to make me freeze). I didn’t try again.

I did find the scenario quite engaging and the graphics weren’t  bad – I haven’t played computer games since my now grown-up boys were kids and so I am very out of touch. However, having said that, this game doesn’t seem to be any more sophisticated or “technology enhanced” than the games they were playing almost 10 years ago.

I didn’t go far enough to really see what could be learned from the game as the scenario develops and, I imagine, the missions become more complicated and build up on the knowledge learned as you go through. It will definitely teach observational skills, deduction and logic. Learning by mistakes and patience. I found it quite stressful to be multi-tasking (observing, reading, problem-solving, thinking ahead) against the clock in an unknown environment, but I think it could be a useful learning outcome.

I am quite tempted to go back and see if I can go any further any faster and find out just what April is playing at 😉 However, I think with the online version at least I would have to begin again at the beginning (I didn’t save my game) and that is definitely a factor of demotivation for me. Had I been able to pick up where I had left, then I think I might have gone back to it later on.

#ocTEL Week 2 Only One Thing

I like this model, which I hadn’t come across before. I can see straight away where many of my students are and how I apply different strategies at different times. I’m going to enjoy thinking about this!

Approaches to learning

As we’ll see in Week 3, the notion of ‘learning styles’ is a contentious one. However, there is body of research in the ‘phenomenographic’ tradition, based on learners’ descriptions of their own experiences, which has made a distinction between three different approaches to learning – the ‘deep’, ‘strategic’ and ‘surface’ approaches. It’s not that the three approaches are mutually exclusive, but that when left to their own devices many students can be seen to have a leaning towards one over the others. What is generally accepted though, certainly in Western higher education, is that ‘deep learning’ is the ideal we should be striving to engage our learners in.

Approaches to learning

Source: Marton, F., Hounsell, D. and Entwistle, N., (eds.) The Experience of Learning: Implications for teaching and studying in higher education. 3rd (Internet) edition. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh.

Your task is to think about the general idea of ‘approaches to learning’ in relation to online learning. Questions for consideration are:

  • Have you seen any evidence of these different approaches in online contexts, e.g. in technology-enhanced courses you teach? How did these differences manifest themselves in terms of online learning behaviour?
  • Are you leaning towards one approach in particular on ocTEL, and if so why might that be? Perhaps you are employing strategies from more than one approach?
  • Are learners who tend to take a ‘surface’ approach likely to learn more or less effectively online versus face-to-face?
  • How might we encourage ‘deep learning’ in online contexts?

I’ve just checked out the link for this activity and come across what looks like a very interesting book. My heart sank somewhat as I initially thought this was the material we had to review for this activity and it’s only supposed to take about an hour. However, on closer reading of the instructions, this is not what we are expected to do and I can leave reading this book until the holidays (surface approach ?) 😉

This activity asks us simply to think about “approaches to learning” as outlined in the 3 short paragraphs.

The only online course I currently teach is part of a blended-leaning course and has only been running for one semester. We don’t really have an active forum or chat facilities and most of the feedback about the online component comes through email or during the face-to-face part of the course. However, I think I can say that I have sensed all three of the approaches from different students and this can be seen in the types of questions and concerns they focs on – “What exactly do I have to do to validate the online modules?” “Will we be graded on such and such?” “Will topic X be in the final evaluation?” or “Where can I find out more about topic y?” or sharing personal experiences and reflections about the course material that validates or questions it.

I think in my approach to ocTEL I am applying a mix of approaches. I would like to think that my main approach is “deep” and that is certainly true to a certain extent although time constraints make it difficult to find the time for prolonged reflection on the content. However, this is a long-term investment and the deeper approach will take place over time as I reflect and exchange with colleagues over what I am learning here and how I/we can relate this to our specific context and needs.

I have surprised myself a bit by applying a strategic approach in relation to achieving badges. It’s the first time I’ve come across this system and I have found it surprisingly motivating in getting me to do activities in the way that the course requires. As I am doing this course off my own bat – it is not something that I was asked to do or required to do for or by my institution – I really don’t need to earn the badges. However, so far I am finding it quite stimulating and is helping keep me “on track”.

I don’t think learners who take a “surface approach” learn effectively and I don’t see how or why the fact of being online or face-to-face would significantly change this. I would have thought that the challenge is to draw learners into a “deep approach” by careful course design, whether this be face-to-face or online. I now realize that this is probably not the case with the online component I put in place last semester which probably allows students (orients them) to using a surface or a strategic approach. I need to rethink that one for next year!

The only way I can see of encouraging deep learning online is by providing the means of bringing the students’ own experience and knowledge into the process and allowing them to use this to critically evaluate the models and concepts the course covers and compare with the experience of other students on the course. This would entail a major rethink of the way the online modules are currently designed and also their function in the overall course structure.

Well, more work in perspective there 😉

#ocTEL Week 2 Activities and Resources

Just when I thought I was going to be able to ease off a little and re-focus on some of my initial objectives (getting to grips with Twitter), the week 2 activities and resources have been published and this looks as if it’s right down my street. Can’t wait to get stuck into this 😉

Week 2 – Understanding Learners and Learning

This week is all about learners and their learning. We’ll be exploring some fundamental ideas concerning the nature of learning, different learning attributes, and how to engage learners effectively online.

We’ll start by considering what ‘learning’ is, including different things that can be learned, and different approaches taken to learning by learners in formal educational contexts.

We’ll then ask you to explore learner experiences and diversity, their implications for learning and teaching online, and some of the different learning theories that can be used to design online learning activities. We’ll ask you to consider the relevance of some of these theories within your own context, and to think about how you would design technology-enhanced learning activities to effectively engage learners in a ‘deep’ learning experience.

This week’s aims

  • Reflect on the nature of learning and fundamental differences in how learners undertake learning (see ‘If you only do one thing…’ below)
  • Distinguish between the different expectations and needs that individual learners can bring to learning and learning online, and explore the general implications for supporting effective online learning (Webinar, Activity 2.1, Activity 2.2, Activity 2.3)
  • Apply what we’ve explored in the above areas in the design of ‘authentic’ online learning activities that can engage learners in a ‘authentic’ learning experience (Be a TEL Explorer activities).

Resources and more to watch, read and research

Adult learning theories: implications and critique

●    Learning and Teaching in Action: Open Issue (Nicola Greaves article and project summary, 2008)

●    Training and the Needs of Adult Learners (Ota et al, 2006)

●    Adult learning theories presentation slides (Smith, 2008)

Digital literacy

●    Developing Digital Literacies (JISC Design Studio)

●    21st Century Literacies (Rheingold, 2009) 45 minute video of talk in London


●    Learning to teach inclusively an OER (Open Educational Resource) module for Higher Education staff that aims to help you gather information about diversity among your own students and, in light of this, redesign an aspect of your curriculum for the engagement and assessment of all students

●    JISC TechDis promote inclusive practice in teaching and learning and provide advice and resources to support learner needs. You can explore some of the possibilities for inclusive use of technology at the site

●    EDUapps provide a range of software collections to support a diverse range of user requirements.  These can be downloaded for free at

Learner diversity in online learning

Learning theories

●    Learning theories

●    Theory into practice database

●    Review of e-learning theories, frameworks and models

●    Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age and debate about connectivism as a learning theory

●    Zone of proximal development

●    Constructivism

●    Collaborative learning

●    Experiential learning

●    Enquiry-based learning: definitions and rationale

●    Problem-based learning: an instructional model and its constructivist framework

●    MOOCs and learning theories

Frameworks, rubrics and principles for designing online active learning activities

●   Edinburgh Napier’s 3E framework

●   Learning materials in a problem-based course

●   Learning design and assessment with e-tivities (pdf of research paper)

●   Seven Cs of learning design

●   Effective practice in a digital age

So, let the fun and games begin – once I’ve finished preparing tomorrow’s class!

#ocTEL Activity 1.3: Champions and critics of teaching machines

I enjoyed watching the short video on “Teaching Machines” presented by B.F. Skinner (exact date is unverified but believed to be in the 1950s). It reminded me of many of the discussions I have taken part in (and am still taking part in) over the years.

This is also a super resource in order to get a quick overview of instructional design over the decades :

This activity asks us to pick one or two of the following thinkers or approaches and read a bit about them  and then think about: What would they like about the Teaching Machines approach? What would they oppose, and what alternatives would they propose?  The list is:  Socratic MethodCommunities of Practice,  Etienne WengerJean LavePaulo FreireIvan IllichSocial ConstructivismActor Network TheoryEmergent Learning Model

I’m going to take a look at Communities of Practice and Social Constructivism to begin with and then see if I have time to take a peek at the others.

Communities of Practice are collective and interactive. They involve discussion and help and necessarily have three components which are domain, community and practice.

“From this perspective, the school is not the privileged locus of learning. It is not a self-contained, closed world in which students acquire knowledge to be applied outside, but a part of a broader learning system. The class is not the primary learning event. It is life itself that is the main learning event. Schools, classrooms, and training sessions still have a role to play in this vision, but they have to be in the service of the learning that happens in the world.”

I don’t really think the learning machine approach sits very comfortably with the Communities of Practice model set out by Wenger and Lave.

There is a concise description of Social Constructivism here:

This resonates with me as it is very much linked to my own research around cultural identity and how this may change through the experience of studying abroad.

We see in the document that “Social constructivism extends constructivism into social settings, wherein groups construct knowledge for one another, collaboratively creating a small culture of shared artifacts with shared meanings.”

There is not much constructing of knowledge for one another in a collaborative way with the teaching machine approach.

From the additional resources I particularly enjoyed watching and listening to the presentation by Eric Mazur –  An abridged version of Eric Mazur’s presentation “Confessions of a Converted Lecturer”:

This is a description of a journey that I think many of us who teach have been on. A few insights from the presentation: We need to “shift the focus from teaching to helping students learn”

“The lecture method is a process whereby the lecture notes of the instructor get transferred to the notebooks of the students without passing through the brains of either!”

“The better you know something, the more difficult it is to teach” I particularly resonate with this last quote.

To see Eric Mazur in action doing an interactive lecture, check out this short video:

Here is a learning theories map from the HoTEL project (Holistic Approaches to Technology Enhanced Learning). This is a great interactive version of the image I posted a few days ago:

Here is another useful site to get an overview of learning theories:

#ocTEL Explorer Activity 1.4 What’s the Theory?

Here are five stories about how technology has enhanced learning.

  1. How Eric Mazur brought peer instruction into the lecture theatre using simple ‘clicker’ technology in his lectures – watch Mazur’s 2012 keynote from 18 min 5 sec for about three minutes
  2. How Sugata Mitra designed a physical and social environment around computers so that young children would self-organise and teach themselves new skills through peer interaction and ‘emergent learning’ – watch Mitra’s 2010 keynote
  1. How Stephen Downes and George Siemens pioneered the development of massive open online courses where the participants’ knowledge and understanding is developed and co-created by articulating ‘connectivist’ links between resources and people on the web – watch Howard Rheingold’s interview with George Siemens from1 min 27 sec for 4 minutes 10 secs and from 17 min 47 secs for 1 minute 50 secs
  2. How Margaret Cox and colleagues developed technology that could simulate the tactile and visual experience of drilling a tooth, so that dentistry students can achieve mastery before they are set loose on our teeth – watch the HapTEL video from 25 seconds for four and a half minutes and the HapTEL booklet (PDF)
  3. How Helen Keegan devised a full Augmented Reality Game (ARG) with a fake identity that unsettled her Advanced Multimedia students and gave them a truly vivid experience of the power of social media and digital identity – watch Keegan’s spotlight talk from 12 min 2 sec for 25 minutes

Some of these I was already familiar with but some of them were new to me. That was the case with the Margaret Cox dentistry project which I found to be really interesting – I hate going to the dentist’s and I’m always terrified that it will hurt, so the more and better practice the students can get, the better for me 😉

I’m a great fan of Sugata Mitra’s work and would love to explore that a bit more but I am starting to feel very pushed for time and I am going to have to really start and focus now on what I want to get out of this course and stop allowing myself to be tempted to go off in all different directions and try to do everything. This is especially true as I have a second MOOC starting and the quiet time at work is coming to an end next week. So, back to the Cormier model – Orient, Declare, Network and Focus.

#ocTEL Online Learning Readiness Tests

OK, so I took all of the tests to see if I was ready for an online course. And, guess what? 3 out of 4 of the tests said that I was ready for online learning , whilst what seemed to me to be the most probing test (University of Houston) decided that I still had some way to go before being ready. I will look at that one again 😉 Anyway, 3 out of 4 isn’t bad!

Here are the links to the tests, done in order by Penn State University, San Diego Community College, Illinois Online Network and the University of Houston:

Houston 1

Just to prove that I am (almost) ready for online learning:

Online readiness check 3

Joking aside, I really can’t imagine using these tests (except perhaps the U of H) with my students, given their level and the subjects they study (engineering and business). At the same time, I am quite impressed with the level of accuracy of the UofH and the State Penn tests. The other two which said that I was 100% ready and would have absolutely no problem with online learning were too optimistic. The Penn State said that I would need to make a bit of an effort (dead right) and U of H suggested that I do some prelimnary preparation before thinking about doing online courses (I have identified where I replied differently on the two tests). I will perhaps try out the U of H test at the start of the year with one of my very international groups and link it with some more general reflexion around learning styles.

The tests all basically look into learning style and preferences, computer skills, time management and work environment. As a number of the #ocTEL participants pointed out, it would also be a good idea to have a test along the lines of “Readiness for Online Teaching”. Apparently, in some places this exists already and James Kerr talks about this on his blog:

Just in passing, I love the way the presentation of this blog can be changed. James Kerr also points to this very useful resource for anyone interesetd in assessment in the digital age:

One of the great things about this course – even if it does mean it takes up a lot of time – is just how quickly people react and provide answers to questions that others have raised. A number of people had expresse the idea that a “Teacher Readiness Check” would be useful. Colin Hynson points to two useful resources for this on his blog, one in the form of an advice page and the other with an online test (which, to be honest, seems to be very closely based on one of the tests I took for learner readiness). Here they are, starting with the advice page:

Here is the online test:

And here is my score:

Online teacher

So, perhaps not totally ready to be a student on an online course, but definitely ready to teach an online course 😉