Blended Assessments of Learning #Blendkit2014 MOOC

I am running a bit late this time, but here is my week 3 post to highlight some of the content in the blendkit MOOC.  This week’s topic is Blended Assessments of Learning.  At the beginning of this week’s reading we were asked to ponder the question:

“How will you implement formal and informal assessments of learning into your blended learning course? Will these all take place face-to-face, online, or in a combination?”

That’s a great question and in this post I would like to share a strategy I use in the blended classroom to manage the collection of evidence for formal and informal assessment.  Let me start by setting the scene.  Most of you probably have a smart phone…. or even a tablet.  How snap happy are you?  Do you like using the built in video features?  Where do you upload your favoured digital assets to share with others?  In your mind you might be saying things like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or some other online platform.

In the blended learning classroom we can tap into the same types of platforms to make them available for others to see but in the context of assessment this may not be as appropriate.

To overcome this hurdle I use a free online e-portfolio system with my learners.  Have you tried http://foliofor.me/?

It has some very impressive features.  For example you can upload or embed your photos and videos.  Your learners can write reflective blogs and you, as the teacher can provide feedback and reflective comments.  Students can decide who they share their work with and they can even create an online work plan or resume to show how and when the work was carried out and what their experience is.

Some newly added features such as apps and themes can make their portfolio more attractive and functional.  I love it, but of course it does not some planning to make it a success in your classroom.

I suggest you have a play with it first so you have a good idea how it works and to help you on your way check out the tutorials created by others on YouTube.

 

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But first…. let me take a selfie

Okay, have I got your attention now?

If you are a regular visitor to this blog you are probably wondering what on earth does this have to do with e-learning? Good question but before I answer I wanted to share with you some interesting statistics.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) at the end of June 2013 there were 12,358,000 internet subscribers in Australia, representing an annual growth of 3%. At the same time the ABS reported that there were 6.2 million mobile broadband connections in Australia.  The ABS also said that wireless broadband is the most prevalent internet technology in Australia. It accounts for half of all connections. Of these 6.2 million connections people are connecting via dongles, tablets, DSL, satellite and dial-up.

That is amazing don’t you think!

The next thing I found of interest was the number of users by age group (yes nearly there …. but first, let me take a selfie LOL).

The ABS found in 2012-2013 that the largest group of internet users were in the 15-17 years age group. Ninety seven percent of people in this age bracket were internet users. Close behind them were the ages 18-24 and 25-34, this continued to drop down (surprisingly not by much though until we get to age 55-64 where approximately 78% were internet users. In the 65 and over age bracket this figure dropped down to approximately 42%.

[if I could I would have that annoying record scratching noise here to get your attention, I would]

Hang on a second what did you say? ….. check out those age groups!…. Now who do you think would take the most selfies?

Now that you are thinking along those lines, let me get back to e-learning (or what I commonly refer to as the use of technology in education).  People love to use their smart phones and tablets and of course we know they have camera and video capability.  They also have the capability to record interviews, comments etc.

So how can you make your training more appealing to younger audiences…. but first, let me take a selfie

A strategy that has worked for me in the past  is to encourage learners to take photos and videos that can easily be added to an e-portfolio of evidence, report or presentation.  This can form part of their assessment evidence for a formal or informal training program.  Collecting evidence is especially appealing to young audiences… and increasingly some of us oldies too! It puts some fun back into learning and if combined with social media can provide quite a rich learning experience.

There are numerous apps on devices to capture these images and if you need to pretty them up too (just remember what it is the learner is there to learn, engagement is one thing but over emphasis on technology is another).

So why am I inspired to write this post.  Well I came across this catchy song and I just couldn’t get it out of my head. Some of you will automatically know the song I mean and well others may not so here’s your chance to hear it.

I will leave you with these words….. but first, let me take a selfie

I also found this cool blog post about the history of the selfie craze by @archivesmous. Hope you enjoy it!

The end of the year is a good time for reflection

Well its the end of another big year in my world, how about in yours?

As the NSW E-Learning Advisor, I can happily say 2013 has been big year and some great things have happened in the Australian E-Learning space. In this post I won’t spend too much time recapping all of those events but what I will do is reflect on what I have seen that seems important… maybe they are to you too!

Starting with the NSW VET sector, there has been so much talk about government reforms, reducing government funds and of course ‘Smart and Skilled’. The good news is Smart and Skilled has been delayed to 2015 to give training providers an opportunity to better understand the reforms and get ready for them. Smart and skilled reforms provide funding for subsidised government places in qualifications up to and including Certificate III.  Details about the types of programs that may attract funding can be found on the 2014 NSW Skills List.

In Australia, only registered training providers can issue Australian Qualifications Framework qualifications.  The body that has the responsibility of enforcing this is, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA). A core part of what  ASQA’s does is to regulate training courses and training providers to ensure they meet and comply with nationally approved quality standards. On 1 July 2012, the VET Quality Framework became operable in most states and territories in Australia.  This framework aims to provide a structure that will result in a national approach to the way providers are registered and courses are accredited (ASQA 2013). ASQA has the power to audit training providers at anytime and many Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) have undergone an ASQA audit in 2013.  The word audit can be scary but here’s hoping the experience was positive and there was lots of positive reinforcement for those who underwent an ASQA audit in 2013.

It is important to acknowledge that E-Learning can come under the microscope in any such audit.  In 2013 I was privy to many conversations between practitioners discussing how to better demonstrate and improve on e-learning quality and student participation. A tool you may not know that can help is the Flexible Learning Advisory Group’s  (FLAG) E-Learning quality model. This interactive model is a great tool to take to your next e-learning team meeting.  Start by examining the quality indicators.  Use the criteria as triggers for questions at your next team meeting.  For example, if you were looking at an existing course you could say ‘How do we know that… the e-learning experience effectively engages our learners’.  Having conversations around the quality criteria can highlight existing processes as well as identifying new opportunities for improvement.  If you haven’t seen the quality model I suggest you take a moment to have a look.  The end of the year is a great time to reflect on existing practice and to explore opportunities for continual improvement.

E-assessment remained topical in 2013.  Teachers wanted to know how they could create authentic assessment opportunities for learners as well as reflecting on existing practices for recognition.  The National VET E-Learning Strategy (Strategy) has some excellent resources available to you on their website.  These resources include National Guidelines for assessment through to a whole host of e-assessment case studies.  In the NSW 2013 e-capability program we had an exciting webinar on e-assessment, I am sure you will find it useful if you have some time to listen to it. For those of you working in TAFE NSW an exciting evidence collection tool was launched during Skills Week 2013.  Check out SkillsLocker and sign in using your DEC username and password.  If you are short of time, checkout my storify page to find out more about SkillsLocker.

E-Capability of individual teachers, trainers and support staff involved in e-learning received a lot of attention in 2013.  Both the NSW team and the National team coordinated an extensive free program to build the capability of those interested in e-learning.  If you have some time in December and January I suggest you listen to the recordings from NSW and the National Program.  Webinar topics included tips to help you get started in e-learning, gamification, augmented reality, cloud technologies…. etc.

So what will 2014 hold for the NSW E-Learning Advisor role?  Glad you asked.  I am busy working on a new and exciting webinar program with some talented guest speakers. Flyers and details on how you can register will come out in January.  I am also establishing an e-learning community for NSW with representatives from right across the VET sector.  If you are interested in being involved, enter your details on the e-community webform.

On a personal note, I have moved into the research phase of my masters.  There are three phases to this research and I would love it if you would stop by and check out my ‘how you can be involved’ research page.

If you love surveys and you are a teacher using technology in education you might be interested in completing  my teacher survey and if you are a student who wants to have a say about your experiences using technology in education, there is a quick survey for you too.

Have a wonderful and relaxing holiday period and I will be back posting in 2014.

References

ASQA (2013) ‘National VET regulation’ accessed online http://www.asqa.gov.au/about/national-vet-regulation/national-vet-egulation.html on 17 December 2013.

State training services (2013) ‘Smart and skilled’ accessed online http://www.training.nsw.gov.au/smartandskilled/ on 20 December 2013.

to video or not to video…. that is the question

We are in our second week of #IDML13 and we were asked to play around with video using our mobile devices. The choice was to download some apps and create movies of what we were doing on the screen but as I have done this many times before I chose to use the inbuilt video on my iPhone and then manipulate several videos using an app on my iPad. If you are interested in my experience please read on and hopefully you won’t make the same mistakes I did.

Step one: find a suitable subject and record some video footage

Life has been hectic so I coerced a family member to be my subject during a recent family outing. Surprisingly there were no shortage of participants willing to be part of my experiment so I have quite a bit of footage I can play with in the coming weeks.

For my first video I decided I would explore how I could work with a combination of short clips and integrate them into one short video. I would also combine text and audio to make more interesting…. well at least that was what I was hoping for.

Off we went down the Shoalhaven River and I madly recorded everything that seemed of interest. At the end of the day I felt it was a job well done.

Step two: transfer the video from my phone to my iPad

Sounds easy, well no it wasn’t. First of all when I synced my iPhone to the laptop my videos were sideways :-).

Windows movie maker could correct this so I needed to do a bit of research to find how I could do this…. for free, because this is what my learners will want. Luckily it didn’t take long and I found I could download Windows Movie maker for free.

Tip: Google windows essentials 2012 and when you install make sure you take the tick off any applications you don’t want.

Once I flipped my video correctly I realised they would be quite narrow on the screen. I do highly recommend you video with your phone horizontally, I know I will next time.

While I was in Movie maker I took advantage of the cool media formats available for title pages and credits. I liked these better than the ones I had available in Pinnacle Studio for the iPad. Now if you don’t want to edit on your ipad you could continue to trim (start and finish of your video) and split your video into frames here. It was quite easy to do but I found I needed to continually split frames to get close to the content I wanted to delete. This part was much easier in Pinnacle Studio.

You can also download royalty free music from the iTunes store and attach it to your video. The great thing about Movie maker is it will automatically stop the music at the end of the movie. Pinnacle Studio didn’t do that and the music kept playing unti the end (you can manually delete it but that will take some effort).

Step three: Getting your movie onto your iPad

If you save your file in the Windows Movie player format you won’t be able to get it onto your iPad even by dragging and dropping via Windows Explorer. You need to save it in an iPad format. When you go to save your movie take the time to have a look at all the save formats (it is quite a long list) and as you scroll down you will see an iPad format.

Hint: save the file to your video library so it is easy to find
The next thing you need to do is to get the movie into your iTunes account on your pc. This was quite simple, go to the library and open the video while in iTunes. After that it should appear in your list.

Next sync your iPad with your iTunes account on your PC
Once you have done this you can begin to work off your iPad. Open Pinnacle studio and when it requests access to your pics and videos simply say yes. This will allow you to find your video and drag it onto your storyboard for editing.

Pinnacle studio is quite easy to use. It is also very easy to cut segments out using the razor blade. I suggest you have a go and make great use of the undo button if you need to. With some of your changes and insertions (such as title pages) you may also need to render the frame – use the first two options – they work really well.

Finally you will need to export your video to Youtube. You will need an account and your own YouTube channel. If you are unsure of how to do this there are plenty of online tutorials that can help.

Now for my finished product. As you can see it is quite amateurish but I learnt a lot and I have a deeper understanding of video editing on the iPad…. exactly what I was after!

First assignment for #LAK13

Our first assignment is to explore the logic, structure and intent of an analytics problem. I have chosen Course Completions as the key area of exploration for this assignment.

 

What do you want to do/understand better/solve?

The vocational education and training (VET) sector (career oriented training for those of you who might not understand the Australian Training system) in Australia is undergoing dramatic changes due to government reforms.  Many of these reforms are driven by the desire for the VET sector to be a key driver of Australia’s prosperity.

One of the key initiatives offered by the Government is an entitlement model which provides potential students with entitlement payment for publicly funded training places.  This payment will be made available to those who do not have an appropriate Certificate III qualification.  This has not been well received by all stakeholders in the VET sector who believe reforms such as this will lead to the demise of public education.

Previously, training providers such as TAFE have received funding to offer training places from the Government.  An entitlement model changes this creating greater incentive for private providers to seek funding which would normally have gone to the larger public providers. Part of this key reform is a proposed completion model that attempts to correct the low completion rates experienced within the sector.  Payments for training places under an entitlement model will mostly be paid on completion. As you can imagine this reform too has been met with mixed emotions and resistance.  The Australian Education Union a key stakeholder of the VET sector suggests that an economic reform such as the proposed entitlement model is purely a shift of costs from Government to students. Unfortunately, whether we like or not, these reforms are not going away. 

With this in mind, I would like to explore an automated system that provides VET practitioners will data that clearly identifies students that are most at risk of not completing their VET qualification in an online/e-learning environment.

Defining the context: what is it that you want to solve or do? Who are the people that are involved? What are social implications? Cultural?

As a head teacher of a large public college I would like to consider ways in which I can explore a student’s online behaviour  and predict those that are most at risk of not completing. This will greatly assist both my own practices and those of the practitioners I work with.

The Australian Education Union explains that completion rates are a problem for the sector and learning analytics offers a potential tool to explore completion rates before the problem escalates and becomes a funding nightmare for the teaching section.

Brainstorm ideas/challenges around your problem/opportunity. How could you solve it? What are the most important variables?

Educational Data Mining enables the VET sector to consider data collected from educational settings and use this data to better understand student behaviour and performance.

All of the students involved in this study are completing a qualification either online or in a blended learning environment using a Learning Management System known as MOODLE.  Moodle provides some potential for monitoring student engagement with learning content online.  The system will identify login dates and times and in some cases the activities completed and assessments submitted.  Unfortunately it cannot provide details of activities completed by the student in an offline environment.

Given that a blended learning environment offers a number of ways for a student to interact with their teacher and other learners the analytics provided in MOODLE should not be considered in isolation.  Having said this, the analytics provided in MOODLE can and should be used to assist a practitioner to keep track of learner behaviour  if the learning environment has been well planned and due dates for completion of activities and/or assessments can also be taken into consideration. Attendance in other activities such as traditional based classrooms or virtual attendance in a virtual meeting room can also identify if a student is still engaged with the learning environment.

Managing student participation in all of these platforms may present a challenge to the organisation and the practitioners who rely on the systems to provide the information required.

Explore potential data sources. Will you have problems accessing the data? What is the shape of the data (reasonably clean? or a mess of log files that span different systems and will require time and effort to clean/integrate?) Will the data be sufficient in scope to address the problem/opportunity that you are investigating?

Regular records need to be kept to document student attendance, participation and submission of assessment.  Educational software such as electronic roll books is used to capture this information. The data collected if interpreted in a timely manner can assist the practitioner to identify factors that might suggest student failure or non-retention in courses however, within the organisation I work for there we do not have access to early warning reporting.  Data mining relies heavily on the teaching section or practitioner who must wade through roll books and examine attendance patterns, submissions of assignments and grades.  This is time consuming and if not completed by the practitioner themselves it may result in time delays if individual head teachers must analyse hundreds of student’s data and report back to their staff.

 

Fortunately, MOODLE itself does offer reports that can easily identify student progress and participation.  This can highlight potential issues and assist in the process of data mining within individual roll books.

 

Consider the aspects of the problem/opportunity that are beyond the scope of analytics.  How will your analytics model respond to these analytics blind spots?

Given the need to encourage participation and student completions educational data mining methods will provide the teaching section with information that will enable them to determine student attributes in real-time making it possible to identify those most at risk.  This is beneficial as teaching can then schedule in additional contact times, support and assistance where necessary.

 

Learning analytics cannot provide teaching staff with details of which pedagogical support is most effective only knowledge of current teaching theories for the 21st century can accommodate this.  The analytics model will need introduce teaching staff to common theories such as heutagogy or peeragogy and guide teachers through a decision process based on analytics and learning theory.  A decision tree could be an appropriate solution for this task.

 

Please note: this post does not include the selection of tools but will be used in later assignments to guide tool selection.

A day made of Glass: Week 2 EDCMOOC

In week two of E-learning and Digital cultures we move from the past towards the future.  

In this week’s learning material we are presented with two videos that are advertising for two well-known companies: Corning Incorporated and Microsoft.  Each video is futuristic and provides an insight into what our world might soon look like because of potential developments in technology.

 We are asked to evaluate these recordings by answering three key questions:

  • how is education being visualised here? what is being learned and taught?
  • what is the nature of communication in these future worlds?
  • are these utopian or a dystopian visions to you? In what way(s)?

For those of you who know me, you will know I don’t do sci fi well so futuristic isn’t really my style.  My brain just doesn’t work that way but having said that, Corning’s interpretation is exciting to me.  I have seen this video several times before and I have to say ‘I love it!’

It represents a world I would choose to live in; one where technology is ubiquitous or omnipresent if you like.  Technology is no longer something we need to use or even learn but instead it is a central part of everything we do without thinking.  To me this is utopia! We are no longer restricted by physical spaces, locations, boundaries.  In terms of education, this seems to present opportunities for learning everywhere…. formal and informally. My passion is technology in education and I could see a world without limits.  I was so excited…. but then the bubble burst – dystopia set in! 

Not everyone agrees with my passion for technology in education (now don’t start panicking I am an advocate of ‘technology is a tool and one must choose the right tool – I don’t think technology is all things to everybody but I do have to be honest, I love using technology in education).

As I returned to reality I started to remember a conversation I had on the weekend with my in-laws.  They seemed quite distraught that people were communicating over technologies such as Facebook and Twitter at the same time as they were having a conversation with a ‘real person’. They felt this behaviour was rude, unacceptable and created problems in our young people, it contributed to social isolation even exclusion.

Attitudes like this are common.  Technology has positive and negative attributes and it is true there are still issues around its reliability, privacy, security to name a few.  Unfortunately these issues have produced fear (whether it is grounded or ungrounded) in some people within society.

Other doubts started to enter my mind.  We covet some of these technologies but our budgets rarely stretch that far.  To be utopian, ubiquitous or omnipresent the technology must be available and affordable.  Costs of the technology are one thing but there are also ongoing costs like bandwidth, data storage and of course software upgrades.  Last week we were challenged to think about our choice in the use and adoption of technologies and I think it is fair to say most agreed we don’t’ have a choice. 

Earlier I said I believe technology is a tool so I won’t get into a pedagogical discussion here but I know many of you would also be saying….what is the pedagogy behind the use of technology. So I will leave this post with a final thought – the use of technology in education in this video seemed effortless – the technology was available whenever it was required. It produced visual stimulation and could easily appeal to all learning styles but to be effective it requires a professional teacher well versed in learning styles, modern teaching methodologies and a good understanding of learning theories such as pedagogy, peeragogy and heutagogy.

Normally I would embed the videos but good old wordpress doesn’t seem to like it so here they are as links. …. happy viewing

A day made of glass http://youtu.be/jZkHpNnXLB0

Productivity future vision http://youtu.be/a6cNdhOKwi0

#EDCMOOC The first YouTube – Bendito Machine III

Our first film to watch is Bendito Machine III. Now those of you who know me will know that this type of animation doesn’t really appeal to me. So I am now feeling just a little out of my comfort zone. Anyway enough about me.

The animation is said to be about technological development through the eyes of ritual and worship. I guess this is quite funny and many out there will love it.

While I watched I could see the relevance of technological worship and addiction. To relate it to today, you only have to look at Apple products how they are marketed and sought after to see cult following and then if you consider social media… well you can clearly see addiction in some of us. At times the scary thing is that title could easily fit me. I love all things e-learning, especially social media.

Another interesting thing about this animation is how quickly they replaced their idol… not that much different to us today. We are asked to consider the question “Do the film’s characters have any choice in relation to their technologies?”. My simple answer is ‘No’. Someone in a position of influence guided the choice and chose when the idol was popular and when it was not and what would be the replacement.

As I continued to watch the film my thoughts turned to the influence technology has on educating and informing the masses. TV advertising today is a great example of how we use technology to influence potential buyers. The message is often if you buy this or wear this or consume this you will be … beautiful, youthful, popular, accepted etc and of course we fall for it. To me the animation was an example of social learning (if you are not sure go back and watch the part where they were watching tv and were now sitting on chairs with empty bottles at their feet). This was different to their previous behaviour of worship and adoration.

Social learning can loosely be defined as a learning opportunity where the learner observes the behaviours and attitudes of others and modifies their own behaviour based on the consequences observed.

Just in case you are not familiar, social learning is a theory often associated with Albert Bandura. Other notable theorists include Vgotsky, Lave and Wenger.

The concept of social learning is probably not that new to you. As a teacher you know that learners learn from their classmates all the time. Social learning can happen in face to face environments as well as digital environments. The animation was still locked into a traditional face to face environment but what happens if we consider this type of learning in the digital space?

When we consider the e-learning environment e-learning designers and facilitators incorporate social learning activities into their programs using a range of tools but in particular those offered by social media. In this post I will stick to education rather than the use of social media to influence the masses.

Social media allows educators to plan opportunities for feedback from both teachers and other learners in the learning environment; it encourages collaboration and group work; and if planned appropriately can facilitate relationships where learners have access to content experts, mentors and coaches. Many of these activities occur in virtual environments such as online discussion forums and virtual meeting rooms.

As the theme of this week’s content is Utopias and Dystopias I think the animation is an example of dystopia – the negative behaviours of those who worship technology. What do you think? Even if you are not part of the EDCMOOC I invite you to watch the animation and post your thoughts on the ritualistic nature of the animation and its purpose.