Leave Space for Learning

Looking through viewing scopeAs we’re about to launch another Facilitating Learning Online-Design workshop, I’ve been spending time preparing the course site and reflecting on online learning design.  I read an interesting article the other day that got me thinking again about the importance of leaving room for learners to “make meaning”. Leaving openings or “white space” presents the viewer/learner/user with an opportunity to interpret, understand, and expand what you share.

The article by Judith Dutill and Melissa Wehler, Pause, Play, Repeat: Using Pause Procedure in Online Microlectures was focused on how to introduce space for students to engage in the ideas presented in learning videos (you can explore more about microlecture videos at their site: The Online Lecture Toolkit)  While I didn’t find the flowchart very useful, I appreciated the emphasis on interrupting the often-unending stream of information that is presented in online teaching videos. The interactive activities they suggest could be helpful in many contexts – not just for keeping viewers awake and engaged.

The information in the article that made me pause and reflect was the examples they shared:

  • an open-ended reflective question for students to answer individually;
  • an argument to consider and defend (encouraging critical analysis); and
  • a low-risk quiz to check on short term retention of knowledge.

Drawn from excellent book by Major et al (2015) , the “pause” activities are both individual and interactive and they provide suggestions for integrating them in further activities in an online course (e.g., in discussion forums).  They made me think about what I’ve been reading about some of the neuroscience and research on how people learn.

I have also been reviewing my notes from a 2016 MOOC called Learning How to Learn, co-facilitated by Dr. Terence Sejnowski and Dr. Barbara Oakley. Some of the research they presented supports the need for “pausing” during learning – not just to reflect but also to, recall, practice, critically analyze and apply new ideas or concepts. Research on neural plasticity and the formation and erosion of synaptic connections in the brain indicate that synapses form and get stronger from repeated use. So, we know that practice helps us retain new knowledge. Practice takes time and space.

Scientists have also been publishing research about the way we use the spaces we have to practice or reflect on new or complex ideas. Studying by cramming information to “ace” an examine doesn’t lead to retention of learning; new understanding can be lost unless it is linked to existing knowledge that an individual has and recalled and applied in different situations over varying intervals. Students are now encouraged to practice “spaced practice” or “spaced repetition” (Kang, 2016) for better learning.

During the upcoming workshop, we’ll be watching how our spaces are used by a new group of learners. And hopefully finding ways to improve the frequency, spacing and value of the learning spaces we provide.

eRefs

Dutill, J. & M. Wehler (2017.10.23) Pause-Play-Repeat: Using Pause Procedure in Online Microlectures, Faculty Focus, Retrieved from https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/pause-play-repeat-using-pause-procedure-online-microlectures/

Kang, S.H.K. (2016) Spaced Repetition Promotes Efficient and Effective Learning: Policy Implications for Instruction, Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences 2016, Vol.3(1), 12-19, Retrieved from https://www.dartmouth.edu/~cogedlab/pubs/Kang(2016,PIBBS).pdf

Major, C., Harris, M. S., & Zakrajsek, T. (2015). Teaching for learning: 101 intentionally designed educational activities to put students on the path to success. Taylor and Francis, Inc.

Immersed, challenged, stretched by LS workshop…

It's just so great when your high expectations are fulfilled! I was intrigued by the Liberating Structures activity (micro-structure) that Leva Lee and Tracy Kelly tried out during ETUG's Fall Workshop (25-10 Crowd-sourcing) and even more curious after I read the explanation:

"Liberating Structures are a collection of powerful facilitation strategies that can be used in our classrooms, everyday meetings, strategic planning sessions, workshops, presentations, etc.  They are seriously fun methods to engage  and work together."

I just returned from an energizing and challenging 2.5 days in the beautiful new Robert H Lee Alumni Centre at UBC, participating in the Liberating Structures workshop that BCcampus Professional Learning and UBC's Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology organized. I'm glad I signed up.

During the 2.5 days, we talked, shared, networked (ate delicious food!) and did the "deep dive", immersing ourselves in testing different variations of many of the 33 micro-structures that are defined and described on the Liberating Structures website

And I'm going to begin my "15% Solution" by doing what I can with the resources I have right now and walking myself (and you 😉 through a "W3 debrief". (Note:  W3 = What, So What, Now What?)

What??

What stood out for me? What did I notice?

Day 1, immersive learning, high energy, shared reflections, bravery required.
Keith McCandless and his "Dream Team" of assistants took turns presenting "invitations" to an activity – monitoring and managing the time, clarifying confusions. I noticed that activities were kept brief BUT we took time to listen to insights about what worked and what didn't from participants, augmented by brief deepening questions from one of the LS facilitators. I never saw anyone sitting out any of the activities; never saw glazed eyes or tapping fingers or feet. I heard lots of chatter, laughter and yet quiet, intense listening when an invitation was presented to yet another micro-structure. For 100 or more participants – that's pretty amazing.

Day 2, barriers down, clusters of participants sharing scribbled notes or just talking and listening. While still active, this day was a bit of a "dog-and-pony" show. Keith and his Dream Team assistant, Fletcher spent a lot of time clarifying which structure they used and why in different situations. We experienced the planning and linking of micro-structures to achieve different purposes. It became really clear that LS micro-structures were about letting go of control while still guiding direction; about repeatedly examining "purpose" and thinking about "why" and outcomes. While there were times when the metallic chimes that moved us between activities were annoying, we got through an amazing number of wide-ranging discussions and activities in a day – and never missed a break when it was necessary. By end of day, energy level dropped, tired faces, but lots of writing and sharing still happening.

Day 3 – focus on personal or group challenges, lots of breakout groups forming around self-identified areas of interest but people were starting to scatter their attention as their focus turned to leaving. One last engaging structure – a circle within a circle – can't remember what it was called but it was great. Snapped back the energy (just tamped down) and got people smiling and interacting before the final summary and good-byes

So What??

What was important?

Tight timing, well-managed – chiming mini-cymbals – annoying but attention catching – used persistently kept the group moving towards outcomes, moving between activities/reflections/questions/etc. Appreciated the respect for time more and more during the workshop.

Repetitive mini-cycles – interesting to experience the effects through different microstructures – having to revisit a statement, an outline, and idea, several times – by myself, with another participant, with a small group and within the large group debriefings – made my own purposes and next steps much clearer and, often more possible.

Inclusion was powerful – activities are structured to integrate this and it was reinforced by the actions of the LS facilitators. I'd think that all the participants felt included and, if they didn't speak out during group debriefings, it was because they didn't want to – not that there wasn't an open invitation and support to speak out.  Lots of opportunities to feel "heard" during various activities – either one-to-one or small group. Interesting how much it helped to have others share their insights and add them to the explanations of the facilitators.

Flexibility – modularization and demonstration of possible connections into various strings or "mosaics", use of a detailed storyboarding example, lots of fishbowl opportunities meant that you could really see how you might use the microstructures in every situation – from the personal to the professional.

The Power of Invitations! – crafting these became a real challenge. Great to have examples presented by different members of Dream Team and presented by different participants in our group activities. Framing the invitations well results in greater participation, clarity of purpose, positive approaches to the task at hand, inclusiveness, etc.

Honesty, bravery, openness in sharing – the generosity of spirit and bravery that most participants exhibited, supported and encouraged by the LS facilitators, was inspiring and part of the positive energy in the room. So much easier to come to meaningful outcomes when no-one seemed to be pursuing hidden agendas.

So What??

What will I do next?

My 15% solution was to apply a microstructure to this blog post. But I have upcoming challenges to address – potential of broadening my network of potential clients and getting involved in interesting initiatives – perhaps by helping organizations or institutions look at how to use LS micro-structures to engage learners or focus their instructional/learning design initatives?

– preparing a presentation for two upcoming events and ensuring that I blow apart the "presentation by expert" expectation to distribute control and broaden involvement with a judiciously selected "string" of microstructures – starting with a storyboard to guide and gain "buy-in" frrom my co-presenters!

Longer terms – apply some of the micro-structures to revisiting the design of some of the online learning activities we've designed for FLO workshops (Facilitating Learning Online). How can we translate the power of LS micro-structures to the onlne synchronous and asynchronous experience! (and share it with others 😉

Lots to do! I'll report back!  Sylvia

Online learning activities jam – messy learning!

SCoPE online communityWell, it’s been a couple of weeks since I wrapped up my first open online learning seminar with the wonderful SCoPE community. I have always enjoyed the interesting discussions and activities and people you meet during these open seminars and had benefited so much from this community when I lived and worked up north. It was a great chance to share back; I hope someone else steps up soon. If you have any ideas you’d like to explore with a varied audience of educators, contact Sylvia Currie, the community steward!

jammaking3My intent for the Creating Engaging Online Learning Activities JAM was to start from a focus on what motivates people who learn online, and then to move on to planning a single online learning activity and sharing it with an audience of informed and experienced educators who would provide constructive criticism, suggestions, ask questions and generally help us all polish our initial designs. I even had hopes that we’d have time for a few practical participation sessions where people could demonstrate part of an activity to see how it worked with “students” before trying it in a “real” class. So…obviously that was too ambitious for two weeks. Hindsight is always 20:20 and I certainly see ways I could have restructured it, narrowed the scope and perhaps segmented the sessions? I’ve posted a feedback survey and, even if you didn’t participate in the whole seminar, if you have any thoughts to share, please do.

20150604_BonktripWhile I didn’t get the participation I’d hoped, I had an unanticipated but welcome guest. Professor Curtis Bonk (whose book with Elaine Khoo “Adding Some TEC-VARIETY” I’d used to help us organize our thinking about learning activities from a motivational perspective), stopped by to share some of his adventures since the book was published. He’s had the book translated into Chinese and spent time in the last year visiting Chinese universities to talk about his books. Check out his latest book – MOOCs and Open Education Around the World.

For my own online learning activity (OLA), I developed a rough plan to gather 4-5 videos found on the Internet (TED Talks, Google Talks, etc.) that focused on new ideas about teaching online. I wanted to explore ways to use videos to provoke more critical thinking and then use them to “seed” online/face-to-face discussions for a workshop about new approaches to teaching and learning. I had been playing with a new tool H5P that I’d added to my new website (educomm.ca) and decided to use it’s ability to create html5 annotated videos.

The value of testing OLAs in a community like SCoPE were quickly evident when I received some really thoughtful questions and suggestions about my initial plan. My final sample video was reviewed in detail by a very knowledgeable participant who pointed out a potential copyright issue I hadn’t recognized, and tested the playback in different browsers and using an iPhone. She also provided some “best practices” around using videos including some accessibility issues I had thought of but hadn’t addressed.  I’m in the process of creating a map to the questions I embedded in the video and I plan to provide a link to the interactive transcript (a bonus of using a TED Talk!). I’ll have to choose carefully for the next 4 videos as I would like to ensure that the resulting OLA is accessible as well as engaging.

We’ve posted all the resources – from a great collections of links to digital Bloom’s Taxonomy ideas to some open digital bulletin boards with questions to ask yoiurself when planning an OLA. And I’ll share the revised interactive video(s) as I develop them, on this site.

Sylvia

 

 

 

Two weeks is 2 short…

overflowing cupOr, to look at it another way, maybe thinking about motivation, asking questions to guide planning, selecting a type of learning activity (and potential tools) and developing a plan and a prototype is too much to deal with 4 two weeks? Some might have found that they felt like their "cup was overflowing"?

I've thought about different ways I could have approached the seminar and wondered if it would have been better to do two separate seminars; the first seminar to introduce and discuss ideas around engaging students in online learning and exploring different types of learning activities (examples). Then, the follow-up seminar could have been a real JAM and we'd have started off with ideas about selecting tools (for delivery or student response) and focused on sharing our own draft ideas for feedback. I've added a brief survey in the open seminar to collect ideas about ways to improve the experience another time.

So….today is the final day of the open, online SCoPE seminar "Creating Engaging Online Learning Activities JAM". You're still welcome to post a draft plan or prototype and get feedback. And the resources and conversation will always (as long as SCoPE continues) be available to revisit and reuse.

I facilitated a final synchronous BlackBoard Collaborate session, Friday, Aug 14th, to allow us to share our plans and/or prototypes. Although we only looked at three plans (including mine!), it was an interesting and informative discussion. Some of the highlights from my perspective:

  • Leonne B. explained how she blends her journaling activity (which includes a success-building rubric the students complete each week) and some computer-skills, applied in their BlackBoard LMS, to develop self-motivated, self-reflective learners with skills to help them in future learning.
  • Viviana C. explained her yet-to-be-tested learning activity that utilizes a focused conversation model to help students explore different science-related quotations from an evidence-based, critical perspective. Her activity provides flexibility and autonomy (two motivational elements) in how students can respond and share their reflections privately with the instructor. The activity is creative and relevant to engage learners.
  • I presented my still evolving learning activity as part of a blended workshop approach to encourage instructors (higher education) to explore different approaches to online learning from a critical perspective. The online component of the blended delivery would be 4 or 5 interactive videos (created in H5P's interactive video tool) that would feature "new" approaches to online learning including at least one that focuses on MOOCs and online learning design.

Note:  The three draft online learning activities can be found in the First Steps: Planning Your OLA forum thread.

Various questions and suggestions helped the presenters think about making minor changes or finding ways to encourage further student-to-student interactions. It will be interesting to hear about the future delivery of these engaging OLAs.

Additional notes:

  • We briefly discussed finding ways to use the SCoPE online learning community and platform to connect researchers or instructional designers wanting to test new teaching/learning activities with teachers who want to try new approaches but who don't have the time to fully develop them or support them during a busy teaching semester.
  • We talked about the upcoming research by Leonne Beebe (University of the Fraser Value) and Sylvia Currie (BCcampus/SCoPE) into the Facilitating Learning Online workshop's self-assessment of participation rubric.
  • We found out about the November 13 BCCampus-sponsored symposium Scholarly Inquiry into Teaching & Learning Practice – registration opens August 31st – they're accepting proposals until September 20th.
  • And a final contribution from SueH – a new MOOC platform launched in Europe – EMMA (European Multiple MOOC Aggregator) – something to check out and blog about in the future!

It's been a great two weeks – what an immersive learning experience for me. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to explore an idea or teaching practice. Just contact Sylvia Currie who hosts the SCoPE professional learning community.