Connecting to students in times of crisis

The #feesmustfall protests are happening across universities in SA. As I write this, UCT academics are preparing to march to parliament to urge government to provide additional funds to sustain higher education. As many lecturers may be feeling out of touch with teaching and learning at this point, it is highly likely that students are feeling disconnected too. So what can lecturers do?

You could try sending students a voice message using Vocaroo or even making a short narrated presentation using Screencast-o-matic Both of these are free tools which allow you to create an mp3 or video which can then be added to an announcement on an LMS like Sakai (Vula at UCT) or Moodle. Or even shared via social media, WhatsApp or email. Send a few words that acknowledge diverse perspectives and updates on the current situation. Keep your communication neutral and supportive. If you have assignments due for your course or any formative feedback you could share these too. I imagine there will be many extensions. Communicate such processes with patience and understanding. Some of my colleagues and I have sent personalised voice recordings with formative feedback to postgrad students and they reported feeling more connected hearing their lecturer’s voice.

During this difficult time feeling connected is vital so I urge fellow educators to think ‘out of the box’ about how we might support students, foster connection and create spaces for dialogue. Personalise official institutional communications, as these can be experiended by students as bureaucratic and alienating. Your voice counts and your students are likely to trust you more and find your words more accessible. As many of us are working from home this is also the ideal time to get creative and experiment with how we might use the tools at our disposal to facilitate and support students’ learning experiences. We need to come up with innovative ways to do business as usual in unusual ways. Feel free to share some of your strategies for how you are doing so with your students.

Digital scholarship in Africa: A personal reflection

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the practices, tools and online behaviours of digital scholars and how what I see in various spaces may suggest that these are not universal. I’m not seeing many African edtech folks doing what those in the Global North are doing. Please note that this is based on a ‘hunch’ and my personal experience of being quite active in a range of online spaces, particularly Twitter.

Continue reading “Digital scholarship in Africa: A personal reflection”

Facilitating Online Course (October – November 2015) OPEN for applications until 18 September 2015

The next run of the online course I co-facilitate on is coming up. Here are the details:) Also here on the e/merge Africa website.

We invite applications from educational technologists and educators based in African Higher Education Institutions to participate in a free five week course in online facilitation funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The activities stretch over 8 weeks from 5 October – 27 November  including Week 0 to address any technical issues and two consolidation weeks (after Weeks 2 and 4) for reflection and catch-up. A maximum of 50 participants can be accommodated.  Course participation will be entirely online and will require up to 8 hours of participation per week. Facilitating Online was developed by the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT) at University of Cape Town and is registered as a short course at the University of Cape Town.  A certificate of completion will be awarded for successful completion of 75% of the assessed activities of the course.

Application for the October – November run of this course will be open until 18 September 2015. We are also planning to offer further instances of the course during 2016. Please contact us on facilitationcourse@emergeafrica.net if you would like more information or for us notify you when registration opens for the 2016 courses.

Target participants:
The course is aimed at experienced educators and educational technologists at higher education institutions in Africa who have reliable internet access and the opportunity to run courses or components of their courses online.  
Selection criteria include:
·         previous experience of online teaching and learning
·         at least five years’ experience as a university educator or educational technologist
·         willingness to teach future online facilitation courses in their local/regional context or
·         willingness to be a conference host for the e/merge Africa online educational technology network across African universities.
 
All applicants will require a letter of support from their line manager or Head of Department.
To apply, please use our online application form by 18 September 2015.
You can address queries by e-mail to facilitationcourse@emergeafrica.net

Endorsements from past course participants:
Dr Judith McKenzie, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Cape Town says “I learned many facilitation skills that I am now able to apply with my own students. I would recommend the course highly to anyone embarking on the online teaching and learning journey.’

Daniel Adeboye, Online Maths Tutor, Tutor for the Future reports that “This course doesn’t just teach you ABOUT online Facilitation, it actually gets you to facilitate, setting this above other online courses I have taken on this subject. It’s a real opportunity to learn and develop. And what’s more? It has an African taste…” 

Dr Speranza Ndege,  Director of the Institute of Open, Distance and e-Learning, Kenyatta University reflects that “The rigorous demands of the online course you took us through have yielded positive fruits. I find it much easier to handle my students, and my online class activities, forums, assignments, feedback/grading are no longer complex. In fact it is fun facilitating online.”

Phil Hill on online & hybrid education

Today we had the privilege of listening to Phil Hill’s presentation. Phil @PhilOnEdTech is an educational technology consultant and analyst who has spent the last 10 years advising in online education and educational technology markets. For me the main takeaways of his talk were that comparing traditional and online teaching is unhelpful. This slide shows that the landscape of hybrid and online learning is more complex (see slide 5 below) than an either or.

(insert photo of Phil with hands in either/or gesture)

He also discussed how questioning the integrity of online teaching has led lecturers to pay more attention to their face-to-face teaching. While some may see online education as a threat to traditional notions of Higher Education and the core missions of a university, he highlights some of the opportunities.

What I hope the PGDip students took note of was how he prioritised the need for university lecturers to think about the educational challenge they see online education being a response to. Is it about increasing accessibility for students who are unable to attend more traditional offerings, for example. Or is it around student-centred learning? Third stream income for a department? Often I meet lecturers who want to engage in online teaching but are not sure why or there is a mismatch between the problems they are facing and the online space. Sometimes there are even deeper social issues where online is not the best solution. Phil highlights the need to be purposeful which I liked because he is also questioning the rampant solutionist discourse of the edtech industry.

Listen to a podcast of his talk here.

Phil’s slides via SlideShare:

I managed to catch the first part of his talk on video: (insert here)

Also check out:

e-Literate blog (Phil is one of the contributors)

e-Literate TV

From digital footprint to digital scholar and beyond

I did a presentation last year entitled ‘Digital footprint: leaving a trail for others to follow’ (presentation via Google Slides with commenting enabled here) for lecturers on the seaTEACH programme. I thought I’d share this with the EDN4052W group (Research and Evaluation of Emerging Technologies in Education, postgraduate course at UCT, details here) since the first overnight task involves blogging about one’s online presence. The online visibility guidelines referred to have been updated (links here) – Michelle Willmers and Laura Czerniewicz leading by example:) I look forward to co-teaching on EDN4502W with my colleagues Dr Cheryl Brown, Tabisa Mayisela and Shanali Govender this week. And of course, our students, many of whom have travelled far and wide to attend the week’s face-to-face teaching for this module.

Continue reading “From digital footprint to digital scholar and beyond”

Advice WANTED: Sketchnoting teams at conferences

I have been asked to put together a ‘strategy’ – let me call it an ‘action plan’ so that it sounds less formal (we’re in academia so that explains the want for formality which kind of clashes with the conversational tone of a blog post) – for a sketchnoting team at an upcoming conference and I was wondering what other folks are doing in this area. The conference is in the educational technology field, see http://etinedconf2015.com/

Please share info as a comment:

  • Are you a lone sketchnoter at conferences or part of a team?
  • If you are part of a team, what is the size of your team and how you manage roles, responsibilities, etc.
  • Do people pick sessions they are familiar with or interested in and sketchnote those or does it ‘just happen’ i.e. is there a plan of action and someone coordinating what is done where and by whom
  • Do you recommend that ‘official’ conference sketchnoters read speakers’ papers beforehand? Or at least the abstract and title to develop a template? i.e. how familiar do ‘official’ conference sketchnoters need to be with the content of a presentation
  • If you have a small team, how do you prioritize who or how much to sketchnote?
  • Any tips for team processes and mentoring new conference sketchnoters? (not that I claim to be an expert)
  • What do you think about the idea of a t-shirt for a sketchnoting team at a conference that one can also use as prizes at workshops on sketchnoting?

I would be interested to get some feedback on these points and please share links to your flickr albums, Twitter handles, etc. for added inspiration – I would love the opportunity to network with fellow sketchnoters:)

In addition to the questions, what are your favourite apps or drawing tools? Are there any collaborative sketchnoting apps out there? Google Draw? We had an activity in mind as part of a workshop. Does anyone have the main elements of their visual library as images in a gallery that you import into an app like Papyrus? I found this strategy useful for adding a CC license.

RE Open Licensing: I was also wondering if adding a CC and making sketchnotes ‘open’ is okay when what the person is saying at an academic conference might not be? What if they are presenting on a paper that is in the review process for a journal or published and has an embargo period, etc. How would a sketchnoter know and do you have any advice? Should a sketchnoter ask permission from a speaker first in the same way as taking a video clip or making a sound recording if you are planning to share it online?

My colleague Rondine @RondineCarstens and I (below) currently do workshops for university staff on sketchnoting for conferences and for teaching and learning as part of staff development workshops at CILT at UCT. Here are some of photos of us and some sketchnotes that form part of my sketchnoting journey (you’ll find more via Twitter) and we also use the hashtag #TLCdoodles on Twitter and Instagram for our own doodles and encourage our workshop folks to use it to share their sketchnotes with us. (FYI: Yes, those are hula-hoops in my office LOL!)

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6 Things Good Teachers KNOW about Technology in Education

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The following is based on my own observations and interactions with a range of teachers, both at university and in other sectors. I think good teachers are able to use technology in education effectively because they know some of the following things:

1. A critical mindset is key
Good teachers know that technology is not a substitute or replacement for good teaching and that there is no tool on the planet which can provide a ‘quick fix’ for educational challenges. They don’t see it as a delivery mechanism. They have a critical outlook and interrogate assumptions – their own and those of others.

 

2. Good teaching with technology is invisible
How does a teacher know when they are using educational technology effectively? When it becomes part of the learning experience to the extent that it becomes invisible. Its educational use becomes a natural part of classroom life (and outside). Good teachers use technology like an extended arm – it is part of his or her practice. Good teachers blur the boundaries between online, offline and formal and informal spaces. Their blended learning practices are seamless.

3. Good use of edtech is integrated rather than tacked-on
Technology is integrated in curricula and learning design rather than being treated as an add-on. Good teachers understand that technology isn’t like hairspray that can just be sprayed on. They build it in from the bottom up.

4. Is purposeful and used appropriately, matching learning tasks
Good teachers are able to make good choices – there is congruence between the tools they select to use, learning activities and outcomes.

5. Play is part of learning
Good teachers learn through play. They understand that they have to play with new tools to better understand their affordances. They have an open mind are are keen to experiment. When things don’t work out as planned in a classroom situation, they have a plan B. They don’t give up – they go home and play around some more.

6. Understand the importance of being agile and reflexive practitioners
Good teachers are able to adapt their edtech pratices and feel comfortable to learn through trial and error. This helps them to know where they need to adapt next time. They reflect on their practice as part of the process.

I am sure there are other points that can be added to this list – feel free to add them as comments:) Let’s see if I can make it to 10. Feel free to suggest any revisions:) Seems like I have a bit of a tension here between knowing and doing – how might I fix this?

I will then use this list to create an OER infographic.

Some other ideas I had was:
– they are able to do more with less
-are inspired by best practice examples but are able to adapt to local needs because they understand their students