Category Archives: octel

ocTEL: Activity 2.2: Learner Diversity

Books #366photos

Here are some thoughts on another ocTEL activity, this one is focusing on how technology can be used to support learner diversity.

Try to find one example from your own practice, or an example or resource from elsewhere, that you think exemplifies good practice in taking a technology-enhanced approach to addressing a key aspect of learner diversity.

It could be an example of a freely available assistive technology, or a set of online guidelines for designing a culturally inclusive curricula. It might be an example of an initiative, such as the college2uni podcasts produced by Edinburgh Napier University, which provide ‘just in time’ guidance at key points in the academic year for Further Education students coming in to University in the second or third year.

Approaching this task I was reminded of how we integrated ebooks at Gloucestershire College.

When we undertook a library survey, it was apparent that there were some groups of learners for whom the library wasn’t their first choice as a place to learn. This was backed up by the data from the Library Management System. More challenging was linking that data with retention and achievement data.

Research from the University of Huddersfield and others indicates that those students who use more books and/or e-resources are the same students who complete and get higher achievement rates. This is a correlation, not necessarily a causal relationship. However it is useful to understand that the data backs up a personal hunch that using a breadth and depth of resources does improve achievement. Also, motivated students who visit the library are also those who complete their studies.

One such group were IT students, who when asked for further feedback talked about how the space wasn’t meeting their needs, they preferred to remain in their area, or studied at night (when the library wasn’t open).

So the question was, how could we encourage these learners to make effective use of the resources available, also, how could we increase their usage of resources? We knew that encouraging their use of the library space was a potential strategy, the fact that they weren’t using it, didn’t necessarily mean they would start using it in the future.

So rather than bring the learners to the library, the plan was to take the library to the learners, using technology to make this happen, through the use of ebooks and other digital collections.

The ebooks for FE collection was a useful resource, containing a range of books. There were many suitable titles for the IT students. The IT students were also making good use of the VLE, so the relevant titles were made available as links on the VLE. The academic staff encouraged the use of ebooks in the class, using appropriate pages in lessons and making reference to them when needed.

The physical books were still available in the library, so from a learner diversity perspective they had choice about which resources they could use. It wasn’t just about choice, it was also about context and location. A book can be read easily when travelling, whether physical or ebook. An ebook can be accessed when the library is closed. A physical book is useful to have open, when you are using your main device as a creation tool, or when making notes, rather than task switching on a single screen. The text size of ebooks can be increased on some readers, for those with visual impairment issues.

The ebooks were just one part of a wider range of resources made available to the students, alongside strategies to improve teaching and learning.

Using technology as a solution to the “problem” for me, exemplifies good practice in taking a technology-enhanced approach to addressing a key aspect of learner diversity. Not using technology for the sake of using technology, but using it to make a difference by solving an issue.

ocTEL: Activity 1.2: Reflecting on strategies for Learning Technology

Keyboard

This week on ocTEL one of the activities is to reflect on strategies for Learning Technology

Activity 1.2: Reflecting on strategies for Learning Technology

This activity is about strategy and how you or someone in your role might contribute to a strategy for using Learning Technology in face to face, blended or online learning context.

A: If you have your own example, reflect on the following questions…

I am currently in the process of writing a new strategy for Activate Learning, this is still a work in progress, with further consultation. So for the purpose of this activity I am going to reflect on the ILT (Information and Learning Technology) Strategy I developed and wrote for Gloucestershire College.

Did you contribute to the strategy, if so, in what capacity?

I was responsible for the strategy, both in terms of development and delivery.

Is the main focus of the strategy on Learning Technology, or if not, what is its main focus?

The main focus was not on learning technology, but on learners, and specifically, outcomes for learners.

How often is it reviewed and is it flexible enough to adapt as things change?

It was a three year strategy. For me it was important that the focus was not on specific technologies, as this wouldn’t provide the flexibility required. By not naming technologies, it would enable the college to take advantage of new technologies and innovations as they arrived on the scene.

The strategy also had a specific section on innovation to ensure that the college could adapt as things change.

A strategy also needs to be a living document, not a static constraint on innovation.

Does the strategy impact on your practice and if so, how? If not, why?

A strategy in itself, will do very little. It needs to be followed up with an operational plan.

Finally, if you were to provide input to a new version, what, if any, changes would you make to it?

The key change I would make, would be to build on the teaching, learning and assessment strategy. If possible the strategies would be worked on together.

Assessing Assessment – ocTEL

This week on ocTEL we’re looking at assessment. As part of my thinking I reflected on the use of quizzes in Moodle.

Designing Moodle quizzes is much more than just been able to use the quiz tool from a technical perspective. There is a real art to crafting questions so that they not only allow the learner to test their understanding, but also require a higher level of thinking.

If we look at the following multiple choice questions, the format of which is one of many different types available on Moodle, it provides the structure and the practitioner provides the question and the answers:

Which is these is a mammal?

Shark
Dog
Spider
Crocodile

This question does not test understanding, most students would be able to guess the answer or would not find it challenging. Within Bloom’s Taxonomy this is testing knowledge only, the bottom layer of the triangle.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

In terms of feedback, you can design Moodle quizzes to provide feedback on questions. So you can explain why their answer is wrong or right and where to look for further information or support.

Onto a similar question:

What is the capital of Australia?

Sydney
Melbourne
Canberra
Melbourne

If we look at this question if you didn’t know the answer then you would need to do some research. However as with the previous question within Bloom’s Taxonomy this is testing knowledge only, the bottom layer of the triangle. It’s more challenging than the first question, but if you didn’t know it already then a quick Google search and you have the right answer.

So what about this question:

Which of these is the odd one out?

Odd One Out

The “problem” with this question is that there is no single right answer. The answer needs an explanation, and it’s the explanation that demonstrates understanding of the question, not the answer.

If we look at Bloom’s Taxonomy it is possible with this question to go all the way to the top.

However Moodle will struggle with assessing a question with no “right” answer and certainly would not be able to assess the explanation.

You could provide generic feedback on why there is no “right” answer, but that may not be useful for all learners. Feedback needs to be personalised to be really effective. Students generally don’t appreciate generic feedback.

This doesn’t mean that Moodle quizzes aren’t an useful tool for checking learning, but its limitations in assessing higher order thinking needs to be considered when designing assessment.

This Page has been Blocked – ocTEL

Blocked

After posting my reflection on the Adventure Game I was reminded of Fantastic Contraption. This is a puzzle game that require logical thinking, but because of the design of the game there is no one answer, you can be very creative. It’s also very social as you can share your “contraptions” with others. I have seen some very innovative and interesting “contraptions” from others within the game. You can also return to your “contraptions” to improve them and make them better. This is a much better puzzle game and more engaging for me than I found with Lost in the City. I thought I should try and have a go at the puzzle game recommended on the ocTEL site. Alas the site was blocked, I was using the free public wifi at the local library. So despite wanting to try out the puzzle game recommended I couldn’t.

So how about I look at Fantastic Contraption instead? Well this is a fun engaging puzzle game. It requires logical thinking and elements of trial and error. Unlike something like Lost in the City, there isn’t a single solution you need to find, there is an infinite number of solutions to each of the puzzles. You can also go back and fine tune your solutions.

Fantastic Contraption

This is quite engaging and there is an element of satisfaction when you find a neat or clever solution. 

There are levels that can appear to be unsolvable and these initially proving challenging can after a while be somewhat demotivating. If there is a level that you can’t solve, you probably will stop playing the game. However as the “recipe” doesn’t really change much across the different levels, you can have enough of the game and when the next game comes along you will probably stop playing, I know I haven’t played for ages.

As for what can I learn from the game, well that’s a more challenging question. I am not entirely sure if there is too much I can learn from the game, there’s elements of physics and logic, but I am not sure how useful the skills learned will be in real life and how transferable they will be. When it comes to problem solving, I would have thought logical and fine tuning a solution would be useful, but I don’t see how this game would result in gaining those skills. If anything the game doesn’t “teach” those skills, and it would be difficult to learn those skills from the game. What is a more likely scenario is that this kind of game would appeal to someone who already has those skills.

I think another interesting point from all of this is the fact that I couldn’t access the puzzle game from the ocTEL webiste. Site blocking is an issue with any kind of MOOC or TEL activity when the learner has to access a third party site as part of the learning and that an “administrator” has deemed to be “unsuitable”. The key question is how easy is it to have the site unblocked. In my case probably unlikely as I am using the public wifi at the local library. What is also quite interesting, but could be worrying for learners, is the comment “The request was logged”. You could imagine a learner thinking that if they went to too many blocked sites they would lose their internet access. It’s an interesting aspect of this MOOC that I suspect hasn’t really been thought about.

Site blocking is still prevalent on public wifi, train wifi, school and college wireless too. For example CrossCountry Trains blocks YouTube and iPlayer as there is insufficient bandwidth on the train. A lot of sites are also blocked on 3G connections due to the default content control on these services. I remember a VLE I worked with in the past was blocked by Vodafone Content Control.

When designing TEL activities (and MOOCs) as mentioned in a previous blog, consideration must be given to alternatives for those occassions when sites are blocked. Also it makes sense to check out how these activities and tools work away from university and college systems, on free wifi or 3G networks.

Active Play – ocTEL

Lost in the City

Have found a little time this week to look at ocTEL.

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. Four game genres with obvious learning potential are adventure games, puzzle games, role playing games and strategy games.

Playing “Lost in the City” reminded me of how much I hate these kinds of adventure games and how frustrating I find them. Now I did give it a fair go and spent over 15 minutes playing the game, of which the majority of time was spent trying to find a single small object on the screen. This was very un-engaging and very demotivating.

Personally I don’t think I could learn anything from this specific game. I also think the frustrations acted as a disincentive to learning.

This is not an “adventure” game, this is a game with puzzles that appears to be an adventure, but isn’t. These are not even “useful” puzzles as far as I am concerned, they are logic puzzles that have to be solved in a particular way or in a specific order, the “challenge” is to find that order out to solve it. The problem with this is that there is no real logic to the process and it’s much more trial and error then actual logic. Also with only one specific solution, you can’t be creative or find alternative ways of solving the problem. This does not reflect the real world.

The other aspect is that too often you spend a long time trying to find (as in the case of “Lost in the City”) that final key, that elusive number. This is not learning, unless you’re learning to be patient! It’s merely frustrating and annoying, as far as I am concerned it’s not even a game.

For me a true adventure game should allow for freedom and flexibility. Then it can be more of a learning experience.

I can see how some people may “enjoy” this kind of game, but also can see how some people think such games “could” be used to teach subjects like Health & Safety, as in spot the danger. However such games would annoy many learners for the reasons I outlined above, and therefore could be a choice, but allow other ways of learning.