#oldsmooc_w3 Cloudworks challenge

It’s half way through week three of #oldsmooc, and once again I have been distracted from the actual course by the possiblities (and opportunities) that a bit of tweaking to Cloudworks could offer. One of the comments Tony Hirst made last week about the practicalities of including some of the network visualisation experiments he had been working on was that of caching and time for real-time diagrams to appear on a user page. Good point, well made, as they say – I don’t think this is insurmountable but it’s not going to be the focus of this week’s post, I’ll come back to it again. But I do think that this is exactly the type of user centred feature that any “new and exciting” (cos of course none of them are “as dull and boring” as the platforms we already have) mooc platform” should be trying to incorporate.

This week’s data challenge was much simplier really and you can see the twitter chain of events in this storify.

[View the story "#oldsmooc_w3 Cloudworks challenge" on Storify]

Once again Tony came up trumps and created a lovely visualisation, but as my last tweet said, was this maybe a bit too much? And as Tony himself asked earlier -what does another view “buy you”? In this case, where there is a essentially a growing list of four different types of “things” maybe just an simpler alternative view (without all the connections) would be more helpful? As the list grows it would be helpful to be able to quickly search for example the tools. This page is undoubtedly a useful resource and as such a bit of time in ensuring that is displayed in ways that help people use/contribute and sustain it is surely worth while. I’d be interested in any other suggestions people may have.

I’m now going to do some more of the actual course work and try to respond to this.

When learning means teaching, and learner means teacher – thoughts on #learnersrights

Like many others I was introduced to A Bill of Rights for Learners in a Digital Age” yesterday. And like a few others was slightly confused by it. I think there is maybe a slight tendency for us the UK to be slightly skeptical of anything claiming to be a “bill of rights”. It’s a bit too American, too explicit for those of us used to having an unwritten constitution underpinning our version of democracy. 

After reading the document, lots of questions ran through my head: what can a learner do with this constitution? how does it protect their rights? who/how/what/why signs up for it? Which brought me to thinking is this really for learners? Or is it actually for teachers/ educational institutions/governments in terms of giving them a framework for providing the “right” context for learning to take place? Is this actually a teachers/teaching bill of rights?  

Perhaps because I’m taking part in #oldsmooc which is about learning design, the subtleties of distinctions between learning and teaching are higher than normal on my agenda. As it has been pointed out on many occasions, learning design could actually be called teaching design as it is in fact in many ways more about the teaching side of education than learning. Sometimes we have a tendency to use learning when we mean teaching, and teacher when we mean learner. This again was highlighted by Stephen Downes in his response to my review of the Larnaca Learning Design Declaration (which isn’t really a declaration but let’s not get caught up in more semantic circles). 

As someone involved in the drafting of “the Bill”, Audrey Watters has written a really useful post on the process and her own thoughts on the the process and terminology used. I found this extremely useful in understanding how, and by whom, the document was written. Audrey’s article highlights another conundrum in terms of the use of “student’ and “learner”. Again bringing me back to my questions about who this is bill is actually for.  

I do think there are some fundamental issues and some which will become increasingly important i.e. ownership and use of data which “the bill” highlights. As with the other announcements from the folks at Hybrid Pedagogy, Audrey is advocating hacking this initial document and getting much wider involvement in its development.  

I’m not sure I’m really adding anything constructive here, but I do think if this is to gain any traction it needs to be clear who this is for. Maybe this needs to evolve into a set of “bills/manifestos/declarations” call them what you will, explicitly directed at students, learners, teachers administrators but with some common underpinning themes to ensure we are all contributing to building successful learning cultures. 

How to succeed at Mooc-ing without really trying

Heard about MOOCs but far too busy doing more interesting things to sign up to one? Not sure if they’re for you?  Feeling pressure to be part of the “mooc crowd”? Keep signing up for MOOCs but keep getting that cba (can’t be a****) feeling after the first week? Fear not, here’s a handy list of tips to ensure you too can get maximum impact, increase your twitter followers, and look like you are at the heart of the next Mooc that takes your fancy.

The quickest way to get noticed in MOOCs is via twitter, so start using the course hashtag as early as possible. Post some random musings (the more bizarre the better), the week before the official start date. The first week will be filled with “hello I’ve just signed up for xxx” – go for something more eye catching. With 6 million participants on a course you want to make sure you stand out from the crowd and most importantly get retweeted. If you don’t think you’re going to get @StephenFry or @PeteCashmore to retweet posts, fear not there are other strategies.

Only sign up for MOOCs where you know someone who is part of the course team.  @ them at every opportunity (with the hastag of course). They’re bound to reply and retweet at least some of your messages. Remember in the first week in particular the people running the course  are desperate to show signs of activity and engagement. 

Alternatively start a tweet off (my polite description for a fight) with the official course twitter account. @ them slightly left field questions that are impossible to answer in 140 characters, but which they can’t be seen to not to answer. Reply to everything with more obtuse comments. Undoubtedly a couple of your followers will pitch in too creating the impression of even more noise engagement.

Dazzle people with analytics. This is getting slightly tricker now more people know about @mhawskey’s twitter archive and tags explorer which have been proven to make even grown Mooc-ers cry:-) But try and get a graph/diagram from somewhere. Sign up for bottlenose and take a screen grab of their sonar view of the course hashtag. Will distract people for days . . .

If you can’t dazzle with analytics, get someone else to.  Set up a challenge that is just too tempting for @psychemedia not to have a go at.  

Follow these simple techniques and by the end of the first week you will have been featured enough to be seen as in integral part of the course, and can go and back to doing something more interesting instead.

More advanced strategies including FB and  google+ to follow.

#oldsmooc week 2 – Context and personal learning spaces

Well I have survived week 1 of #oldsmooc and collected my first online badge for doing so -#awesome. My last post ended with a few musings about networks and visualisation.

I’m also now wondering if a network diagram of cloudscape (showing the interconnectedness between clouds, cloudscapes and people) would be helpful ? Both in terms of not only visualising and conceptualising networks but also in starting to make more explicit links between people, activities and networks. Maybe the mindmap view is too linear? Think I need to speak to @psychemedia and @mhawskey . . .

I’ve been really pleased that Tony Hirst has taken up my musings and has been creating some wonderful visualisations of clouds, cloudscapes and followers. So I should prefix prefix this post by saying that this has somewhat distracted me from the main course activities over the past few days. However I want to use this post to share some of my thoughts re these experiments in relation to the context of my learning journey and the potential for Cloudworks to help me (and others) contextualise their learning, activities, networks, and become a powerful personal learning space/ environment.

Cloudworks seems to be a bit like marmite – you either love or hate it. I have to admit I have a bit of a soft spot for it mainly because I have had a professional interest in its development.(I also prefer vegemite but am partial to marmite now and again). I’ve also used it before this course and have seen how it can be useful. In someways it kind of like twitter, you have to use it to see the point of using it. I’ve also fully encouraged the development of its API and its open source version Cloud Engine.

A short bit of context might be useful here too. Cloudworks was originally envisaged as a kind of “flickr for learning designs”, a social repository if you like. However as it developed and was used, it actually evolved more into an aggregation space for ideas, meetings, conferences. The social element has always been central. Of course making something social, with tagging, favouring etc, does mean that navigation isn’t traditional and is more “exploratory” for the user. This is the first time (that I know of anyway) it has actually been used as part of a “formal” course.

As part of #oldsmooc, we (the leaners) are being encouraged to use Cloudworks for sharing our learning and activities. As I’m doing a bit more on the course, I’m creating clouds, adding them to my own #oldsmooc and other cloudscapes, increasingly favouriting and following other’s clouds/cloudscapes. I’m starting to find that concept of having one place where my activity is logged and I am able to link to other spaces where I create content (such as this blog) is becoming increasingly attractive. I can see how it could really help me get a sense of my learning journey as I process through the course, and the things that are useful/of interest to me. In other words, it’s showing potential to be my personal aggregation point, and a very useful (if not key) part of my personal learning environment. But the UI as it stands is still a bit clunky. Which is where the whole visualisation thing started.

Now Tony has illustrated how it possible to visualise the connections between people, content, activities, what think would be really useful would be an incorporation of these visualisations into a newly designed profile page. Nick Frear has already done an alpha test to show these can be embedded into Cloudworks.

A move from this:

My Cloudworks profile page

My Cloudworks profile page

To something kind of like this:

Potential Cloudworks Profile page

Potential Cloudworks Profile page

Excuse the very crude graphic cut and paste but I hope you get the idea. There’s lots of space there to move things around and make it much more user friendly and useful.

Ideally when I (or any other user) logged into our profile page, our favourite spaces and people could easily been seen, and we could have various options to see and explore other network views of people/and our content and activities. Could these network views start to give learners a sense of Dave Cormier’s rhizomatic learning; and potentially a great level of control and confidence in exploring the chaotic space which any MOOC creates?

The social “stuff” and connections is all there in Cloudworks, it just needs a bit of re-jigging. If the UI could be redesigned to incorporate these ideas , then I for one would be very tempted to use cloud works for any other (c)MOOC I signed up for. I also need to think a lot more about how to articulate this more clearly and succinctly, but I’d be really interested in other views.

Cloud gazing, maps and networks – some thoughts on #oldsmooc so far

So my 2013 mooc adventures have started with #oldsmooc, the OU (UK) open course on learning design. As this mooc has evolved from a number or projeccts in the JISC Currriculum Design programme (notably OULDI) and has benefitted from a small additional amount JISC funding to get it up and running.

As with any mooc (particularly one that is based on constructionist pedagogies (or a cMooc), the initial experience can be a bit overwhelming and confusing. My heart went out to all the team last week when the technical gremlins came out in full force for the live overview/introduction to the course, and then Cloudworks had to have a “essential maintanance” on Thursday morning which was the official start date of the coures. However, these minor hiccups have been sorted and the chaos course has well and truly begun.

The course is utilsing a number of different online spaces for communication, course information and sharing including, email, google groups and hangouts, bibsonomy, twitter, a website and cloudworks – not a VLE insight. As I was exploring the course outline and various sites last week I have to confess that it did cross my mind that just having everything in one place might make things a lot easier for participants. Yes, dear reader I did have a yearning for a VLE, but that quickly passed. I remembered that even in #moocmooc where they did use one, I actually ended up hardly using it and most of my “learning” and activities took place via my own personal learning network, which in that instance was pretty much twitter and my blog.

I’m relatively fortunate as I have used most of online spaces being utilised by the course before, but there is quite a learning curve and with so much activity it is really easy to feel lost and unsure. These feelings of confusion and isolation are not unique to this course, I experienced the same with the #moocmooc course last year. It does take confidence on both a personal and professional level to put yourself “out there” and start to share/comment work with others (which is one of the main activities for week 1). With so many different online communication channels being used it also requires quite a level of digital literacy to navigate between the various areas. (Bonnie Stewart has written a great blog post about inherent digital literacies and networking which discusses these issues in a far more detailed and coherent way). Importantly, as a learner you need to have quite a high a level of confidence to work out just what are going to be the most effective channels for you to use.

As with anything “massive” you just can’t keep up with everything so, imho the having the confidence to be able to not try and do everything/ read every post is crucial too. Not only in terms of having any chance of completing the course but also for your own sanity. I have a feeling that I might be like lots of the participants on the course, despite knowing the suggested time allocation for the course ( up to 10 hours a week), my motivation, work and life in general will probably get in the way of me actually dedicating that amount of time each week, so I have to be pragmatic to get the most out of the effort I put in. (Just trying to figure out what is the minimum I can do to get some badges?:-) )

Finding the “right” technologies/online spaces for MOOCs is a bit like looking for the holy grail. Everything falls short in some areas, and a lot does come down to personal preferences. That said I do think it is important to allow for experimentation – both for course designers and for students. The former can get a feel for what actually does work in terms of their overall “design” and learning objectives, and for the latter there is nothing like learning by doing. In this case when the course is about learning design, first hand experience should be helpful when thinking about technologies to use in your own courses. My list of things I really don’t/do like is growing and more importantly the context of when I do/don’t like using them.

For many participants, this is the first time they will have used, or indeed come across Cloudworks. Again I am fortunate as I have used Cloudworks before. I have found it really useful but getting into it can be slightly confusing. The logic of individual clouds being part of wider collections of clouds called cloudscapes is fine. At the moment it is hard to keep up with and find the sheer number of clouds and cloudscapes being created, never mind trying to remember to favourite and follow ones you are interested in and add your clouds to overarching clouds. I don’t know if it is the influence of last week’s Star Gazing Live, but I think (and I was glad to see I’m not alone in this, Jane Challinor has blogged about it too) what might be needed is another map or way of understanding/finding/navigating our way through the ever expanding skyline in Cloudworks. A more visual cloud map instead of star map if you like.

Naviagting Cloudworks as it grows is a challenge. The current navigation is pretty much list based just now, but not everything is (or could be ) easily accessible from the front page. As I was looking through various clouds yesterday, I was reminded of a wee experiment my colleague David Sherlock and I did a couple of years ago with the (at that point recently released) Cloudworks API. We were able to create a mindmap of a cloudscape, and I’m just wondering if this view might be useful to help people make sense of some of the OLDS Mooc cloudscapes,including their own. David has kindly dug out the code and here’s an example base on the main OLDS MOOC cloudscape. Click this link to see the mind map (NB this uses a flash front end so if you’re on a mobile device it won’t display properly.) The screen shot gives an indication of the mind map view.

Screenshot of mindmap view of a cloudscape

Screenshot of mindmap view of a cloudscape

To try it yourself put http://labs.cetis.ac.uk/cloudworks/?cloudscape=2417 into your browser, and if change the “=2417” to whatever the ID of the cloudscape you want to view is e.g. my oldsmooc cloudscape looks like this, the “2417″ has just been changed to “2567″.

I know the Cloudworks developers were quite keen on this idea back then, maybe this is something that can be explored again. After reading and watching Bonnie’s post about the the power of networks in moocs, I’m also now wondering if a network diagram of cloudscape (showing the interconnectedness between clouds, cloudscapes and people) would be helpful ? Both in terms of not only visualising and conceptualising networks but also in starting to make more explicit links between people, activities and networks. Maybe the mindmap view is too linear? Think I need to speak to @psychemedia and @mhawskey . . . Now I better get back to the actual course.

Quick review of the Larnaca Learning Design Declaration

Late last month the Larnaca Declaration on Learning Design was published. Being “that time of year” I didn’t get round to blogging about it at the time. However as it’s the new year and as the OLDS mooc is starting this week, I thought it would be timely to have a quick review of the declaration.

The wordle gives a flavour of the emphasis of the text.

Wordle of Larnaca Declaration on Learning Design

Wordle of Larnaca Declaration on Learning Design

First off, it’s actually more of a descriptive paper on the development of research into learning design, rather than a set of statements declaring intent or a call for action. As such, it is quite a substantial document. Setting the context and sharing the outcomes of over 10 years worth of research is very useful and for anyone interested in this area I would say it is definitely worth taking the time to read it. And even for an “old hand” like me it was useful to recap on some of the background and core concepts. It states:

“This paper describes how ongoing work to develop a descriptive language for teaching and learning activities (often including the use of technology) is changing the way educators think about planning and facilitating educational activities. The ultimate goal of Learning Design is to convey great teaching ideas among educators in order to improve student learning.”

One of my main areas of involvement with learning design has been around interoperability, and the sharing of designs. Although the IMS Learning Design specification offered great promise of technical interoperability, there were a number of barriers to implementation of the full potential of the specification. And indeed expectations of what the spec actually did were somewhat over-inflated. Something I reflected on way back in 2009. However sharing of design practice and designs themselves has developed and this is something at CETIS we’ve tried to promote and move forward through our work in the JISC Design for Learning Programme, in particular with our mapping of designs report, the JISC Curriculum Design and Delivery Programmes and in our Design bashes: 2009, 2010, 2011. I was very pleased to see the Design Bashes included in the timeline of developments in the paper.

James Dalziel and the LAMS team have continually shown how designs can be easily built, run, shared and adapted. However having one language or notation system is a still goal in the field. During the past few years tho, much of the work has been concentrated on understanding the design process and how to help teachers find effective tools (online and offline) to develop new(er) approaches to teaching practice, and share those with the wider community. Viewpoints, LDSE and the OULDI projects are all good examples of this work.

The declaration uses the analogy of the development of musical notation to explain the need and aspirations of a design language which can be used to share and reproduce ideas, or in this case lessons. Whilst still a conceptual idea, this maybe one of the closest analogies with universal understanding. Developing such a notation system, is still a challenge as the paper highlights.

The declaration also introduces a Learning Design Conceptual Map which tries to “capture the broader education landscape and how it relates to the core concepts of Learning Design“.

Learning Design Conceptual Map

Learning Design Conceptual Map

These concepts including pedagogic neutrality, pedagogic approaches/theories and methodologies, teaching lifecycle, granularity of designs, guidance and sharing. The paper puts forward these core concepts as providing the foundations of a framework for learning design which combined with the conceptual map and actual practice provides a “new synthesis for for the field of learning design” and future developments.

Components of the field of Learning Design

Components of the field of Learning Design

So what next? The link between learning analytics and learning design was highlighted at the recent UK SoLAR Flare meeting. Will having more data about interaction/networks be able to help develop design processes and ultimately improving the learning experience for students? What about the link with OERs? Content always needs context and using OERs effectively intrinsically means having effective learning designs, so maybe now is a good time for OER community to engage more with the learning design community.

The Declaration is a very useful summary of where the Learning Design community is to date, but what is always needed is more time for practising teachers to engage with these ideas to allow them to start engaging with the research community and the tools and methodologies which they have been developing. The Declaration alone cannot do this, but it might act as a stimulus for exisiting and future developments. I’d also be up for running another Design Bash if there is enough interest – let me know in the comments if you are interested.

The OLDS MOOC is a another great opportunity for future development too and I’m looking forward to engaging with it over the next few weeks.

Some other useful resources
*Learning Design Network Facebook page
*PDF version of the Declaration
*CETIS resources on curriculum and learning design
*JISC Design Studio