Mapping connections 4 learning

Mind maps (the term is attributed to Tony Buzan although the idea is much older) are a useful tool to organize knowledge visually and deepen understanding. When drawn on a piece of paper or whiteboard, the maps are easy to create and change, yet provide a clear and shareable record of thinking about a subject.

12Apps of Christmas graphicWhen the maps are developed using an app or web-based service, mind mapping becomes even more powerful and portable. I’ve used various apps over the last few years and thought they might be an interesting addition to the annual BCcampus 12apps for Christmas event. But how to choose an app?

The 12apps event has a simple set of attributes:

  • free (or at least an option to try for free so everyone could try it easily)
  • cross platform (iOs or Android – bonus if it works in a web browser too!)
  • has potential to support teaching and/or learning.

I added a few additional characteristics to help me choose:

  • visually attractive (without a lot of fussing)
  • easy to save or share (even if the saved version couldn’t be edited in other apps)
  • clear terms of use and help to get started
  • collaborative (a big bonus and only available with some)

I chose SimpleMind first as I thought it scored reasonably well and I had used it in the past as an iPad app and liked it. But after initial testing and review of features, I found they had restricted what I felt was an essential attribute of free use – you could no longer save your mind maps in any way – not even with a screen capture!

So I went back to check out Bubbl.us, Freemind, Mindomo, Mindmup, Mindmeister, Popplet, Lucidchart (not technically a mind mapping app). Some were open source and required installation on a server (or didn’t have an app option for mobile devices; other apps had a free or trial version but were expensive (comparatively) if you wanted to continue and expand your use.

I finally settled on Coggle – it was cross-platform, easy to use, produced visually appealing maps without a lot of fuss, and could be used collaboratively. Although the free version had limitations, the price for a basic subscription was in line with other apps.

example mind map - lasers

Coggle Gallery: Lasers

Mind maps are useful for various knowledge building activities and Coggle makes it easy to use to engage learners in online classes:

  • creating a visual map of course themes, topics and learning objectives to help students manage their learning or to help an instructor develop or refine a course;
  • creating collaborative maps to summarize highlights of a week’s forum postings or to share final reflections on learning as a course draws to a close;
  • for individual learning as a way to take meaningful notes during presentations or while reviewing research reports;
  • to support collaborative knowledge building activities by having small groups create and share mind maps of their research and analysis of a relevant topic; and,
  • to support a blended learning activity beginning from individual to small group discussion using a paper-based graphic organizer to capture and refine brainstorming (face-to-face) and then moving tChristmas mind map with Cogglehe discussion into an online session where small groups shared digital mind maps of their analysis to contribute to a final summary of critical perspectives on an important theme or issue.
  • And I had some fun by completing my own “What about Christmas?” mind map!

There’s not been too much participation (at least visibly) in this year’s 12apps event but the daily app blog posts will stay visible throughout the year so you can easily refer back to find a new app to try.

If you’re curious to learn more about the potential of mind maps and other visual organizers and analytical approaches, check out some of these articles:

 

Inspired by FLO micro-course!

FLO MicroCourse iconI’m currently on a professional learning journey – exploring longer, ongoing learning (through BCCampus Online Book Club) and distinctly separate (but linked) digestible chunks of learning offered by Sylvia Currie and her FLO’rs (through FLO – MicroCourses)*

I’ve taken one micro-course (Creating and using rubrics) on and I’m immersed in the 2nd: Experience and design a community building activity, facilitated by three creative and experienced facilitators:  Colleen Grandy, Gina Bennett, Sylvia Currie.

So, Ilooking through scope‘ll take the micro-scopic view this week as I’m currently challenged to pick, describe and share my idea(s) for an engaging online community building activity!. I’ve got some drafts on the go – will share them below here after I share them with my colleagues!

a random photo story opportunity

5 Card Flickr

I started by waffling between using one of two amazing free online tools:  Five Card Flickr by Cogdog (aka Alan Levine) or the TinEye Lab (Multicolr: Search by color). Both do random searches by keyword and/or colour for Creative Commons-licenced images. How great is that eh? I mentioned that I’d been waiting for an opportunity to use Cogdog’s app for a long time (Sylvia Currie pointed out tha

a random search by color or keyword

Tineye Multicolr

t he’d launched it in a 2011 event at UBC!!!)

And I think I probably found the search by colour site by Tineye sometime around 2012?  I can’t remember exactly and it may have come from Stephen Downes or, more likely, by amazing edtech boss Grant Dunham! He was always combing the Internet for new ideas to make online learning and distributed learning more interesting, engaging and to help people learn!

And here’s the great thing about taking the plunge into self-direct professional learning – the feedback I received from the three micro-course facilitators and participants really expanded my perception of how I could offer this as a community building activity and made me take a closer look at whether it was edtech fascination or a focused intention to support better learning (yikes – guilty of letting my digital magpie take over to some extent!)

Check out the value-added feedback from the micro-course – and you’ll see why I am a fan and encourage you to sign up for the next FLO micro-course!

Constructive commentary from my colleagues:

Gina:  try one image and then space out the contributions of other learners – to build a story together from the images from random searches (maybe contribute one every other day?) My note:  Which tool would be best to support the shared presentation of image and story? We are working in Moodle primarily – Lightbox might work? Or is Google more flexible? and accessible? or move away from the Web2/3.0 tools entirely and just provide a selection of random images and they can pick?

The point is to build connection and community among disparate learners. Maybe best to do a themed search, collect the random images and post them in the learning space? Allow learners to select one image and add to the story line? Could be done with Glossary tool?

SylviaC:  try the same set of random sorted images and ask everyone to build a story and then comment/think about others?

Beth Cougler Blom:  she encountered some challenges with saving images from a random search on the 5 Card Flickr site so she went to a random search on Adobe Spark and created a quick story – and shared the steps she took and what she thought about what she was doing – invaluable feedback!

And she made me reflect on my underlying motivation by asking: “I feel this story doesn’t have anything to do with me…was it supposed to? Or was it supposed to just be a cool, creative process/story to engage with?”  Yup, I have to admit, part of this was driven by the ‘cool’ factor rather than the community building factor. Yikes, you’d think I’d be over that. But that’s the value of these micro-courses – where else would I get such honest, thought-provoking feedback. I’m so appreciative!

UK random image generatorGina – again:  She stayed on track and watched Beth’s Spark video and contributed another awesome resource – Random Image Prompts. I have never encountered that one but it’s now tucked away in my Ideas file and I’m sharing it out to you in case you want to try some variation of this approach to building community!

So thanks to everyone who contributed ideas and took the time to test my idea – I have even more ideas now! Try it yourself – and let me know how it went?

Sylvia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


* Facilitating Learning Online (FLO) MicroCourses are short, single-topic, hands-on and free. In one week, you will dip into the FLO experience, and leave with something practical and useful for your own teaching practice.

Making marks and dancing feelings at SKiP2018

Sketching in Practice logoOne of the things I love about living ‘down south’, is the opportunity to follow a whim or curiosity in terms of professional development. When I saw some tweets fly by about a Sketching in Practice symposium sponsored by SFU, my interest was piqued. When I poked around a bit I found the pages and pictures from the 2016 and 2017 events and then followed the blog until the presenters for this year’s event were posted. I checked my calendar, figured out travel details and registered.

I’ve explored graphic facilitation and sketchnoting in the past but I appreciated the wider scope of SKiP2018. From a young art teacher, Meghan Parker, who had just completed the first “..thesis of an autobiographical nature in comic book form” to two academics, Dr. Kathryn Ricketts and Dr. Andrea Kantrowitz, who proposed to explore intersections between movement, gesture, and meaning, the day looked pretty full of thought-provoking experiences!

A last minute surprise was my winning a draw for a pre-event workshop with Carnegie Mellon’s Doug Cooper called “Drawing by Touch.” Thanks SKiP!

So…what?

So, what did I learn? what did it change about my ongoing professional development ideas and interests?

Comics in education

I am still ambivalent about the role of comics (as most comics are drawn) in education. After listening to Meghan Parker speak her comic thesis, I realized that part of my resistance to comic strips may have been the structure (connected boxes) and the visual busy-ness I perceive when I try to read them. I was surprised at how much I learned from Meghan’s comics and how some of her simple images and complex messages stayed with me afterwaMeghan Parker's thesis comicrds. I realized I appreciated the variation in presentation of her visual elements – sometimes she drew around boxes while at other times she had a pageful of boxes. I’ll revisit some comic strips and try reading them out loud too – might help me to understand the attraction 😉

 

Hand drawing on paper

I have always found that writing can help me work out ideas but I often struggle with using drawing the same way. I’ve found that the challenge of imagining an image to represent a complex idea takes a fair bit of thinking at times and my lack of any drawing automaticity means that I’m also struggling to think of how to draw the image I can picture. Sometimes that means drawing is a block to understanding rather than an aid. So, the natural drawing exercises (from author/teacher Kimon Nicolaides: The Natural Way to Draw (1941)) that Doug talked/walked/drew us through on Thursday afternoon were really helpful as he introduced me to some new ways of relaxing about drawing and finding ways to feel the shapes of what I see and to let my hand and arm relax and stay connected with the paper. Now, to make drawing a more natural part of my day so that I can use it more effectively in my practice.

drawing scienceDrawing Science

I thoroughly enjoyed Armin Mortazavi’ Lightning Talk. His understated delivery and self-deprecating humour make it easy to miss the impressive abilities of this young science cartoonist. His story about juggling personal crises while holding various government entities at bay while he created a meaningful story to communicate complex health and nutrition information through his comics was hilarious but enlightening. I’m only sorry I couldn’t be part of his session – I heard it was great.

Maps for inspiration; maps for understanding

Two related afternoon sessions: Professor Chris Lanier shared some interesting examples of some of his favourite graphic novels and then pulled us into an exploration of how drawn images can inspire story narratives. An interesting use of this narrative mapping technique that certainly drew some interesting stories from the audience. Chris is currently working on a novel about the Department of Justice’s Ferguson Police Department Report (An Anatomy of Institutional Racism), using comics and infographics.

Erin Fields hosted an interesting session exploring the Information World Mapping (IWM), developed by Dr. Devon Greyson. She involved us in a brief application of the technique, having us draw our information world – mapping the process and connections we think of when we try to resolve a problem. This enriched our understanding of her story about applying this method at UBC when she participated in an application of IWM to try to understand the information-related needs and preferences of student refugees during resettlement. Erin is Liaison Librarian in the humanities and social sciences and the Flexible Learning Coordinator at the University of British Columbia.

Drawing as a form of thinking

I had read about Sandra’s use of drawing journals in a recent article from Capilano University’s Bettina Boyle so I was curious to hear her story and learn more about how she integrated drawing in her teaching. She shared her journey and her efforts to understand the evidence underlying her beliefs and practices in the classroom. Some of her examples were very compelling and a good “push” to start incorporating more drawing and journaling to support my own personal reflective practices!

Marks, movements and meanings

I think there is much more to the ideas Dr. Ricketts and Andrea Kantrowitz wanted to share with us than I was able to absorb from their Lightning Talk and interactive three-part session. Although the fluidity of movement, the variation in emotional expression and story conveyed by Kathryn’s movements was interesting, and the use of the projected overlays of line, colour and form that Andrea drew as she was inspired and interacting with Kathryn’s story were eye-catching, I never really felt the two blended or augmented my understanding, although the group I was part of during the “audience participation” piece had a lot of fun trying to use movement to express emotions depicted by tiny drawings on scraps of paper. I was grateful for the small printed booklets Andrea shared afterwards and I’ll be “unpacking” the ideas as I have time.

Whew! It was a full day and a half – had to leave early to catch a ferry home. Too bad I missed the summation and the opportunity to get together with people afterwards. But my hat is off to the hardworking, enthusiastic SFU staff that helped us all learn together – and kept it fun!

Cheers to Jason Toal’s team of sketching enthusiasts – from Simon Fraser University’s, Faculty of Communications Art and Technology; School of Interactive Art and Technology; and the Teaching and Learning Center

 

Making learning personal

Have you noticed the the increased use of the terms “individualization”, “differentiation” and “personalization” ? While more prevalent in K-12 education conversations, the terms (often linked with adaptive technologies) are increasingly part of the focus within higher education. They are cited as being part of the move to more effectively engage diverse learners and help them learn what they are interested in, and need for their future.

Do you think you know what they mean? Do you feel you are able to offer one or all of these approaches in your teaching?

When I asked myself, I realized I was a little hazy on the differences between the terms and was finding the link to online learning and the power of adaptive approaches and technologies. So, to clarify I turned to my Googlebrain and found what seemed to be a useful explanation (from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology) and discovered that two were actually subsumed in one (i.e., individualization and differentiation are considered a part of personalization).

Individualization Differentiation  Personalization
 instruction paced to the learning needs of each student  instruction to meet learning preferences of different learners  instruction paced to learning needs, preferences and interests of different learners
 learning goals same for each student  learning goals same for each student  learning objectives, content, method and pace may all vary
learning progress allows faster, slower pace for each student  method and/or approach varies for each student, based on their preferences or what research has found works best for students like them  encompasses both individualization and differentiation
Personalization – “Personalized Learning”
instruction in which the pace of learning and the instructional approach are optimized for the needs of each learner. Learning objectives, instructional approaches, and instructional content (and its sequencing) may all vary based on learner needs.

In addition, learning activities are meaningful and relevant to learners, driven by their interests, and often self-initiated.

Based on my own experiences, I would say I try to offer this kind of flexibility to individual learners as often as I can but I doubt I ever fully achieve “personalization”. I don’t really see how it is possible to address all the aspects described in the definition, within a structured school system built on measurable, demonstrable, similar learning outcomes.

Many of us face increasing class sizes, increasing diversity of learners, and a growing complexity of teaching. Even in the face-to-face classrooms, teachers are hard-pressed to get to know each of their students well enough to provide appropriate flexibility of timing, approaches, and completion options. The laudable intentions of the “personalization” approach assume that every learner is able to identify what is meaningful and relevant when new ideas, concepts and content are shared. While the learner-centred interpretation of the three terms put forward by Bray and McClaskey are inspiring, I have had many students who weren’t focused enough on my course (among all the competing demands in their busy adult lives) to even want to achieve “mastery” or to take the time to monitor and reflect on their own learning.

And a challenge that is never mentioned in the articles and conversations about the benefits of personalization, is how do you keep track of what you’ve done, why, for whom, and whether and what they have achieved and how it relates to the stated outcomes of the syllabus? “Aha,” you might say. “There’s an app for that!” Technology is often cited as the answer to customizing learning for individuals.

Some practical examples of how “the machine” can identify problems (in curriculum) quickly, help to improve curriculum on the fly, and help an online instructor identify emergent or potential problems that individuals were presented several years ago by Stanford’s Daphne Koller in her popular What we’re learning from online education TED Talk. Since then the possibilities of machine-assisted teaching surround every conversation about how to help students learn and succeed. A more recent EDUCAUSE article, “How Personalized Learning Unlocks Student Success” provides a list of ways in which instructors can use machine-generated data to personalize learning activities and includes a Utopian vision of accessibility, enjoyment and positive partnerships between instructors, adaptive courseware and happy students.

If I sound a little skeptical of many of the claims of technology, it’s based on my experiences and observations. While technology makes it possible to provide amazing learning experiences and to manage the outcomes, we’re still learning how to use the tools well. The power, scope and potential of new technologies progresses faster than we seem to be able to respond – both in using those powers for positive effects and to protect our learners (and ourselves) from the potential harm and loss of privacy.

 


Header image: On-screen analytics @Jisc and Matt Lincoln and Teacher and learner group, @tamuc via Flickr, CCBY

eRefs

Alli, Nazeema, Rahim Rajan, Greg Ratliff (Mar 7, 2016) How Personalized Learning Unlocks Student Success, EDUCAUSE review, Retrieved from https://er.educause.edu/articles/2016/3/how-personalized-learning-unlocks-student-success

Basye, Dale (Jan. 24, 2018) ISTE Blog – Education leadership, Personalized vs. differentiated vs. individualized learning, retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=124

Bray, Barbara and Kathleen McClaskey, (??) for Education Alberta, “Personalization vs Differentiation vs Individualization  https://education.alberta.ca/media/3069745/personalizationvsdifferentiationvsindividualization.pdf

Koller, Daphne (https://www.ted.com/talks/daphne_koller_what_we_re_learning_from_online_education)

Lam, Evelyn (Aug 31, 2016) Review:  Weapons of Math Destruction, Scientific American Blog, Retrieved from https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/roots-of-unity/review-weapons-of-math-destruction/

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology, (2010) Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology (pdf) – https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED512681.pdf  (see p.12)
Note:  These periodic reports are referred to generally as National Education Technology Plans.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology, (January 2017) Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education:  2017 National Technology Plan Update (pdf),  https://tech.ed.gov/files/2017/01/NETP17.pdf (see p. 9 sidebar, Personalized Learning)

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.