Sunday, 26 June 2011

Changing Cultures, Changing Practices: Using Mobile Tools, the Cloud and ePortfolios for Authentic Assessment

This year I have been Invited to speak at EDMEDIA 2011 in Lisbon, Portugal.  Click HERE to see more details about the presentation. If you want to engage in discussion, then Twitter using the hash tag #dmkedmedia or @davidmkennedy.

Abstract: Ubiquitous computing stopped being hype and became a reality in 2010. With the convergence of small mobile devices (the iPad and iPhone in particular), integration with cloud computing, and cheap wireless and/or 3G connectivity, this convergence of technologies has finally come of age. However, the issues for higher education remain the same: design of resources for learning, the activities that drive the learning process, and assessment.

This paper will focus on research that has been undertaken in a small liberal arts university in Hong Kong where multi-language proficiency by students (English and Putonghua) is a key goal for the University. The research focuses on three components that were key to the learning design: iPhones for teaching and learning, using the ‘cloud’ for feedback and sharing (YouTube), and ePortfolios (Mahara) for assessment.

Modern ePortfolios allow students to provide evidence of a variety of learning outcomes using a wide range of media including text, audio, images and video. Multimedia provided students with the opportunity to more completely demonstrate language skills and proficiency. Student learning was monitored by examining media produced using iPhones, stored on YouTube and presented on Mahara. The learning design enabled more immediate and relevant feedback (particularly peer feedback) on critical language abilities.

However, at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, creating this convergence of pedagogy and technology proved to be a non-trivial task and involved technical issues, re-thinking curriculum design and professional development for staff and students. The presentation will use the insights gained from this research to highlight the opportunities and risks associated with what is still seen in Hong Kong (and no doubt elsewhere) as radical approaches to curriculum design.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Change in Education: Taking the Red pill

In listening to a talk recently  about motivation and change I remembered the images associated with the impact on Neo's life in the Matrix movie: he took the Red pill. Once you take the Red pill, everything will change and nothing will be the same again, and in fact, you wont be able to go back to the way things were before.

I would suggest that once you start using technology in teaching and learning, once you change, once you start doing things differently, everything changes.  To continue the metaphor, change is not to be avoided, but embraced for very good reasons. These reasons are very nicely summed up by Eric Hoffer, who said:

"In times of change, the learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists"

 We are focused on preparing students for an uncertain future, and we need to move with them.

Think of some of the changes that have already occurred. MIT gave away their content, and the ROI was enhanced: the sky did not fall. The creation of Open Educational Content and Creative Commons licences that allow content to be shared, and academics still got paid: the sky still didn't fall. And, software become free and open source, and businesses flourished: the sky was still up.

Embrace change: it keeps us all young at heart.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Change and mLearning

With due respect to all psychologists who deal with the complexity of human behaviour, there is an old joke about 'How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?'

The answer is of course, only one, but the light bulb must WANT TO CHANGE.

In Higher Education, the staff and students also need to see the value of wanting change in order for innovations to have real impact on behaviour. With apologies to those people engaging in the daunting task of changing the culture of educators and educational administrators I believe this famous statement about the environment (Pogo, 1970 - should be resurrected in the current climate of educational reform and change. 'We have met the enemy, and he is us'.

It is only occasionally that we hear of technological issues being the major problems in the use of technology with teaching and learning. The majority of the discussion is be focused on how to change the approaches to teaching and learning of teachers to be more inline with the students they teach, often with little reference to the local context, perceptions and skills of students, and staff perceptions for any need for change. We also need to ensure that students also see the value in changing practices and become part of the process of change.

While we know that students are themselves products of their past learning experiences, it is possible to underestimate how much we need to engage them fully if they are to help drive the processes and engage with new curricula and new ways of providing evidence of learning. Until recently the literature suggested that we have these homogeneous group with high levels of IT skills that can be automatically utilised for learning. A more critical view suggests that our students, while some may be technologically competent are more likely to have diverse skills and interest. Some students may be great consumers of IT, but the majority may lack practice as producers of academic content that requires the use of technology (as in ePortfolios) to support the process and the outcomes. Student development is often just as important as staff development and should be resourced accordingly.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Some observations on the use of mobile phones for learning

I jokingly refer to my iPhone as my 'auxiliary brain'. If I didn't have it, I would have to get something like it. It is used for reminding me about important things to do, calander/ diary, providing just-in-time access to documents via Dropbox, as my presenting tool (using wireless) and communication when I am away from the office.

However, this range of use is not universal for all users. For example, how many of us use the full power of MS Word? When we need something done, we learn how to do it or ask someone. If we don't perceive we need it then we don't spend time even exploring.

In the use of educational technologies, the usability, context and purpose are key factors to adoption. For example, in my current project with iPhones, if a student doesn't perceive a suitable use for their iPhones, they generally do not bother to explore, even when we as the researchers suggest that something might be useful for improving their organisation (diary) or learning (podcasts of grammar from GrammerGirl - see Familiarity and existing ways of working are key inhibitors to changing practice and should not be underestimated in any study purportedly intent on changing learning behaviours.