Yes, it has been a long time since I blogged!
Obviously, we have one global topic dominating our lives at the moment – the Coronavirus pandemic. Many people will have to self-isolate, quarantine over the coming months and I have seen many excellent suggestions on things to get you through it. I thought I’d add in some things to try and avoid.
A few years ago I had to be isolated for almost 12 months during an illness and treatment. I felt relatively fine in the greater scheme of things – the illness and side effects of the treatment left me tired, spotty, fat, achy but also oddly hyper and pretty much functioning. I’ve also been a remote worker for the last decade. If you find yourself in lock down but are well(ish) some of these tips may help you, I hope. I will try and do another post specifically on remote working later but for now this is when you find yourself holed up and you’re not too sure what to do with yourself.
It seems a dream at first. Feet up and delve into all those boxsets everyone has been talking about. Trust me, the novelty can soon wear off and you quickly get TV/screen fatigue. Before you know it you don’t want to watch another true crime documentary. Which also brings me to….
If you are feeling particularly anxious, now is not the time to catch up on the apocalyptic dramas. Virus, Pandemic, Survivors probably not going to make you feel better (though oddly for some of us with generalised anxiety and a tendency to catastrophise, we can thrive watching them at this point as we finally have a rationale fear and can do stuff. Yes, we are weird, no need to point it out!) Some teary, emotional movie watching will be fine, but remember you are probably going to be very emotional, maybe more so than you first realise so try not to overload yourself.
Lighthearted programmes, comedies and quizzes can help your mind take some time off and stay occupied with something more friendly for the old noggin. In fact, I would prescribe* a minimum of 30 mins comedy per day (*not a doctor but the saying laughter is the best medicine came about for a reason.).
The pen is mightier than the sword but screens seems to be mightier than all! Look out for screen fatigue. It can physically affect you, almost binding you to them and before you know it you feel like you’ve run a marathon and your brain has melted. Yes, the TV and computer is going to bring you entertainment, information and a way to keep in touch with others through social media and games but too much and you just feel bleurgh I found.
Give your ears a work out too, try some radio programs (Radio 4 comedy for the win!), audio books and podcasts. Listen to something whilst doing something else, like tidying that drawer you always said you’d get round to, tidying up, a jigsaw, DIY.
That pile of books you’ve always meant to tackle – make some time for them. And craft and create like no one is looking.
If you are stuck indoors there is one way to cheer yourself up that is easy to fall in to – online shopping and gambling. By week two you are sick of seeing the same walls, so what harm can buying some new cushion covers do? Or those adverts where the online bingo players are all sat round a campfire with marshmallows – that looks social and fun…and not a bloody thing like the reality at all! Getting any stimulus from beyond the four walls is great but be careful not to fall into the trap of trying to buy yourself out of boredom. Hopefully, those able to still be out and about will do things to keep you feel in the loop – send one of their books through the post, a cross stitch kit (a friend sent me a chocolate bar and a puzzle book and I cried with thanks!) but…
Clearly the current situation is one of the widest reaching in living memory and everyone is rightly worried for themselves and their loved ones but you are going to see sides of people you haven’t before. People you thought you could rely on will disappear (especially people who found you really useful when you were out and about, not so much now!), and people you thought were mere acquaintances will be like guardian angels. It can feel really demoralising at time but in the current climate we need to try and retain our empathy and understanding as much as possible.
Similarly to above, the empathy has to go both ways. If playing Words With Friends is keeping you sane but your opponent isn’t playing back in real time, appreciate they may be occupied with something else. At the moment my work & study life remains totally the same (too much to do, too little time!) and I am really busy so, my check-ins with friends may be a meme or a few lines rather than a tome of an email but I remember those daft check-ins when I was in longtime lock down kept my spirits up.
Look for some ways you can continue to be social with friends and family online, it maybe starting a book or recipe (insert any interest) facebook group just amongst your friends and family which people can drop in and out of when time allows them. If there is a time you know you will all be doing something say watching a particular TV show – have a watch party.
Sleep and sleep patterns can go haywire. If you’re thinking ‘ah I don’t need to get up tomorrow for x,y,z’ so you watch a few more episodes of the latest boxset before you know it your new bedtime is 4am and you go totally out of sync (and being awake during the day and getting as much light as you can is your friend!). On the flip side, ‘I can sleep in/Catch up on all that sleep I’ve missed’ is great at first but can easily fall into sleeping just to stave off boredom and your energy will plummet. Try to keep to some sort of schedule but…(see how many buts this situation has!)
Control freaks, who’s writing up to-do lists and making timetables like they are back at school? I WILL do yoga at 10am, read from 11am, sort out my wardrobe at 12pm’. It gives you a lovely sense of control to start with, at a time where control feels totally lost, but can soon feel like you are being you own prison warden. Be kind to yourself.
Hey, I slob out at home, few excuses are needed. Slobbing out feels lovely at first but after a few days it can make you feel miserable to the point you almost convince you must now be ill, feeling lethargic and scuzzy. Now, you don’t need to go the full nines each day, I’m mean ladies it is a joyous bras are optional time. Dig out all the elasticated waists for sure, mix and don’t match, comfort not tailoring but don’t fall into the Bridget Jones dumped look (or whatever the male equivalent is) for too long.
Basically, if you are going to wear a onsie, make it your good one 😊
You need to stay aware and informed but you don’t need to watch the newsfeeds around the clock. In my case I had to stop researching my illness (which was super rare so I found myself in a well of full blown medical level research). Choose your information point, check in a couple of times a day. Even if you feel you are a strong-willed, level-headed person you may still find yourself becoming increasingly anxious about things you cannot control . As a wise person once said, look for the people running towards, there will be good news and heart warming stories too and that positivity will be vitally important to your mental well-being.
Snacking’s great isn’t it? And when you are holed up and bored, what better way to spend some time snacking 😊 Guess what, it’s another thing that can lead to you feeling sluggish (and let’s not start on the bowel affects because then we might have to discuss toilet paper!) Try to keep your eating in check and as for advice from me on that subject – have you seen a picture of me!! Not my strong suit but food and cooking can be something to stave the boredom and baking was a good time killer (with a lovely outcome).
There’s no medals for a stiff upper lip. If you are feeling down, anxious or scared please do reach out to someone, your being open may often help others, as we all realise we are not alone. These are not irrational thoughts, you won’t be judged (or if you are I can guarantee those people are dicks). I found amazing support in my immediate circle and also in strangers on the internet going through a similar thing.
Hoping everyone stays safe! Does anyone else have any top tips of some pitfalls to be aware of?
My current block in the H817 Openness and Innovation in E-Learning is on learning analytics and word up, after my operation I am super behind on my readings and studies but, I did want to share a few thoughts here.
Firstly, just the term learning analytics makes me shuffle in my chair uncomfortable. I think this is a fear that I can going to be drowned in data. That data savvy and intense number people are going to bury me in terminology and programs that make my headache, and make me feel like a bit of an idiot. I think this comes from something many of us may have experienced in the past, the lost in translation discussions that happen between different groups in companies or institutions. Ask a learning designer to describe a fruit bowl and then get a data analysis to describe the same thing, you will get two very different viewpoints. So analytics probably scare me a bit – not the information itself but the extraction and delivery of that information.
Learning analytics is already in action but it is still in it’s infancy, we are seeing the tip of a possibly very large iceberg. LA will inform educators, learning, and administrators. Yet are we using them effectively? How many times do we still hear of the analytics being presented not going beyond bums on seats? Or here’s a pass rate for an assessment and here endeth the story?
We have the ability to collect simple data so often, even before the scary analysis experts step in, yet we don’t. Why is that? Because we don’t have the time, the confidence, we know the stakeholders don’t or won’t want to hear it, all of the above? How many of us will hold our hands up and be honest, sometimes we don’t follow the learning analytics because we have a gut feeling, a gut feeling we have grown to trust and has often served us well. Let’s be honest again, how many times do some of us say “hey the learning analytics are only going to tell us what we (I) already know, we’ll get them but just as ‘proof'”
Ahern (2019) discusses the use of data in in her blog post Compassionate Pedagogy in Practice and notes the need for motivation amongst educators to implement learning design changes based on learner data.
“…data can be collated for different purposes; automated actions (e.g. email triggers) or as data for humans (e.g. tutors or students themselves) to interpret…However, this does not mean that actionable insights will necessarily be drawn or that action will take place. Motivation is required at institutional and practitioner level to make meaningful use of the data, returning us back to our notion of compassionate pedagogy and a motivation to criticize institutional and classroom practices for the benefit of students.” Ahern (2019)
Ed Foster’s blog Living Learning Analytics Blog is a great blog to review on all things Learning Analytical and Higher Education. As he says in his About Me section ” I am not a data scientist or statistician, but a humanities graduate who has worked in an education setting. My role is not about fixing algorithms, but asking questions about how people can best use the technology to support student success.” I feel this is very reflective of many who work in education, training, learning and development whether in educational institutions, corporate or public sector training.
Ahern, S. (2019). Compassionate Pedagogy in Practice. [Blog] Digital Education Team Blog – UCL. Available at: https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/digital-education/category/learning-analytics/ [Accessed 30 Jul. 2019].
Foster, E. (2019). [Blog] Living Learning Analytics Blog. Available at: https://livinglearninganalytics.blog/ [Accessed 30 Jul. 2019].
Some of you may have seen in the news recently that publisher Pearson is going to phase out print books and go digital first.
This came as little shock to me, and I’m sure many others interested in EdTech, but do not, I repeat, DO NOT, venture into any social media threads on this news article as you will not come out alive. For many people this is a step too far and at some point in the discussions it will turn to ‘bring back the cane’ I assure you!
I wanted to create a fun and short video introduction to myself. I like the ‘cartoony’ animation style of Vyond and hoped to reflect my own personality into what can other wise me a boring ‘this is what I do’ list.
Vyond is an online animation video creation and editing tool, full of templates, characters, and scenarios. It is very instinctive to use, and with the editing features you can deviate from the templates to give projects your own look and feel. I think animation are particularly engaging in creating learning content for scenarios or interactions, often more comfortable to watch and digest than real-life video, especially for certain scenarios. The cartoon feel lets you push things a little more that my come across stilted in a real life set, and make difficult or embarrassing subjects a little more approachable in my opinion.
I like how narration can be added and synced to the characters, which themselves can be edited, hence we see a more accurate representation of me and my love of cake and black clothing, than a run of the mill stock character! Though for clarification if you do meet me in the flesh my hair is now currently a very sensible brown!
The downside of the narration is, even with a good internet connection, I found uploading and editing it lags and can be frustratingly slow and unstable, often needing me to log out and back in again. I used the text-to-speech generator for the narration as I could add my own voice that day as my headset was killed in an office cat related incident (which will make perfect sense when you watch the video and see how I work!). Even this generated content would cause the system to grind to a halt. This would be my biggest bugbear with Vyond. However, if I had plenty of time to work around this, I would happily use Vyond for future projects as I do think there is value to the finished project.
After creating the video I uploaded it to You Tube for two main reasons, for ease of sharing, and to use You Tube’s closed captioning functionality which isn’t currently available in Vyond and would be my second bugbear.
So here is the finished piece, a light-hearted introduction to me – hello and for now, bye!
I’ve just had my TMA03 marked, my third assignment in the H817 module, Openness and Innovation in eLearning and am thrilled with the mark so excuse me whilst I do a little celebration dance!
But more than just the mark, this has been my favourite block of the Masters in Online and Distance Education as it involved a group project.
In a team of four, we were tasked with creating a learning application or content, exploring local history using mobile and/or social technology.
Unfortunately, our fourth member was unable to take part due to a sudden family illness, so the three of us undertook the brief with six weeks to complete and document our process, and create a prototype of our idea.
Throughout the design process we created a team site to display our approaches, activities and our final prototype, Please do visit the website at https://sites.google.com/view/h817-19b-violet-team/home
The main objective and educational aim of our project was to produce an activity-based app that allowed foreign students in the UK learn and improve English language skills in a practical way whilst learning about, and engaging with, local history via mobile and social media technology.
Our target audience was foreign students studying in the UK who may or may not be formally studying English. During group discussion we agreed encouraging participants to undertake activities in this context would be beneficial for a number of reasons:
I undertook the role of media manager and instructional designer, though as a team we were highly collaborative in all activities that were given us as part of the learning design process.
In terms of theoretical framework we used Connectivism and Constructionism, further details of which you can find on our team website.
On the completion of our storyboards and a meeting, I amalgamated the storyboards and our decisions to build on my initial Pidoco wireframe to create an interactive prototype. This was my first time using Pidoco and I really enjoyed it and will definitely use it again.
I then created a video walkthrough of the prototype which you can view here (closed captioning available):
And you can try the prototype out yourself:
Personally, the project helped me understand the importance of creating personas as part of learning design. Whilst at the time of the persona activity we decried it as a team as ‘overkill’, at the storyboarding and prototype design stage we came back to the personas frequently. They focused my mind on how the design would be viewed and experienced from the participants viewpoint which would be inherently different to my personal experience (Malamed, 2009).
Having never used Pidoco before, using it was both a practical learning but also a further insight into the importance of storyboarding and wireframing, rather than jumping into final product creation. I have experienced being asked for rapid prototyping or immediate creation in the corporate training field and understand from communications within the instructional design community this is very often the case. In my opinion, this risks undermining the final product and hoped for objectives.
In reviewing the prototype as a team, we evaluated that it presented a strong skeleton for a final app and if pursuing further would spend time on the provision and context of in-app resources for participants, ensuring the technology was adaptive, the language contextualised, and explanatory feedback was being achieved which echoes the finding of Heil et al (2016) during their study of mobile language learning applications.
I really enjoyed working with my teammates and am very proud of what we achieved, especially in the time frame.
I hope you find the prototype and project interesting and welcome any feedback.
Heil, C., Wu, J., Lee, J. and Schmidt, T. (2016). A Review of Mobile Language Learning Applications: Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities. The EuroCALL Review, 24(2), p.32.
Malamed, C. (2009). Learner Personas for Instructional Design. [online] The eLearning Coach.
I’m sorry, that is such a clickbait title but, I couldn’t resist!
I’m pleased to say I had my operation last week and am recuperating well. Once inside the surgeons found I didn’t have gallstones plural, but one massive black pearl pigment stone, about 3cm in diameter and that my gallbladder was in fact, rotten. Full of pus and adhered to my liver and bowel. They made a marvellous job of removing the offending article and as they said, I was a bit of a walking sepsis time bomb. So after the initial shock, time to be very grateful that it is all gone and I am no longer rotten to my core (well not in that sense at least 😉 )I am already feeling better overall, hardly surprising!
I cannot praise the care I received from the NHS and Royal Derby highly enough.
I will now endeavour to be a good patient at home – no heavy lifting or stretching for a while, and must rest when my body says so but that is easy said than done! Mum is being both nurse and warden to keep me in line.
Unfortunately, I cannot cut glass for a little while longer as it is amazing the pressure glass cutting puts through your arm and into your core without you realising it. Luckily, however, I have found I can recline with my laptop in comfort so can amuse myself spamming on the internet and getting back to studying.
Thankfully I was able to complete my TMA02 (with 91%) and complete the group project and TMA03 before going into hospital, and I will be blogging about that group project in a separate post as I would love to share our project with you and gather your feedback.
Our final module block in on Learning Analytics which I am looking forward to diving into.
With so many life changes of late, it is nice to have a breather and re-evaluate, even with 4 itchy incisions in my stomach!
Well if nothing else, I like to keep life interesting!
So a few changes have happened over the last few weeks. Or rather CHANGES, in bold….and neon…and with spikes.
I did the fatal thing of jinxing life. As I walked out of the hospital eight weeks ago after Mum’s final heart and orthopaedic check up with the thumbs up I dared to say ‘well hopefully that will be the last of this place for while, we seemed to have lived here for the last three years! Let’s have an awesome year’
Fast forward a few weeks and I was writhing in sheer agony in A&E. One infected gallbladder and I was admitted for a few days of IV antibiotics in one arm and morphine in the other.
Huge shout out to all the staff at the hospital who were nothing short of angels!
Also, I was sadly made redundant.
Redundancy has not been a pleasant experience (well, it rarely is, is it?) but after 9.5 years and feeling like I had been physically run over by a JCB, well this just made sure my brain and feelings were also turned to mush. There were, I am not afraid to admit, some exceptionally dark days afterwards and I have to thank my family, friends and GP for getting me through those. I will include a list of resources at the end of the blog post for those who may find themselves arriving at this post and in a similar position.
Needless to say physical pain and stress levels have been ‘up there’ but as they say the only way is up, or a bit zig zag at least for a while.
It has put me behind in my Masters study but I cannot praise the Open University, my tutor and my classmates enough for their support and I am slowly catching up and looking forward to the distraction and goal of my studies in the months to come. I am signed off and my operation has been set for 5th July with my doctor wanting me to take some more time out as I am a burnt out.
I like to think, or certainly hope, that all this timing and putting me out of action is for a greater purpose, a time to reassess and refocus. If nothing else I will catch up on Netflix!
I’ve started my portfolio on the site and look forward to building that out as I go along too – much overdue.
But for right now I am off to cuddle a hot water bottle and continue finishing up TMA02 and then enjoying our block 3 collaborative project which I will tell you more about soon!
Help and Resources:
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis and need support, you can text SHOUT to 85258
I am a bit behind in my Masters study at the moment after taking almost three weeks to kick a nasty flu virus out of the way.
Compared to my last module, H817 isn’t as heavy on readings but that is like saying a rattlesnake bite might be a bit kinder than an alligator bite! And of course you don’t just stop at the required readings, there’s the suggested readings and the rabbit hole you disappear down as you scour the online library, blogs and everywhere in between.
I am resigned that I will not read everything ever for H817, in fact part of mastering a Masters I have discovered is choosing your reading battles wisely!
Thankfully we have a meme to sum it all…
Have a great week everyone!
This blog post is an activity for H817 Openness and Innovation in eLearning where we are asked to consider three key issues we feel face OER (Open Education Resources) and how they are being addressed.
For a quick recap on what OER are I recommend the nice and clear Defining OER on WikiEducator.
OER are learning resources which are available in the public domain and can be freely accessed, utilised and re-purposed by others under open licensing. Many define OER as must be openly accessible and allow the 4Rs – reuse, revise, remix and redistribute.
I like to remember that OER or learning objects should not be considered only as standalone objects, pockets of fact or thought that will be transmitted into the brain of anyone stumbling across them but rather they are part of a larger learning process and practice. How we create OER and how we then create and facilitate learning processes is an intertwined field. With that mind of thinking, I really like the following diagram from fro Beetham et al (2012)
There are many issues facing OER but the three I have decided to consider include:
Bias: whilst I could go a level above and state authenticity, reliability, and creator expertise as an issue I’d like us to consider bias, whether explicit or implicit.
Bias is being addressed in what I see as a, necessary, two-pronged approach. Firstly, creators of OER are being challenged to debate and address bias in their own creations and that of others. At OpenEd17: The 14th Annual Open Education Conference in 2017, a panel session was held on “Equity, Bias and their relationship to OER”
The session introduction noted:
“The open education movement is heavily rooted in the belief that teachers and faculty have the freedom to develop content that meets the needs of their students. This raises a few questions. Can the implementation of OER exacerbate bias? To what degree is OER content culturally relevant? Does the majority of OER content have a white American male slant? Are we remixing content that unintentionally alienates a particular group of students?”
This discussion within the OER community must continue unabated to address issues of bias in OER and to help both creators and users recognise it.
As I said there is a two pronged approach to recognizing and challenging bias in OER and that second prong is ensuring users must be aware of the possibility of bias and have the critical thinking skills to question and research any bias in OER they are intending to use. I particularly liked finding this rubric from Federation University, Australia which helps users evaluate OERs and including in the rubic they call out creator bias and obvious bias. I would argue we need to take the debate and warning of bias to the user even more overtly, given that a user may be more likely to not consider or recognize bias that those who have a lot of OER experience and life under their belt but also because today’s OERs users are the ones who will redistribute, grow and create future OERs.
Accreditation: this issue is because it is one close to heart. I’m over 40 but am still hurt when the dentist doesn’t give me a sticker for being a good patient. I am a recognition junkie. I want a badge, a medal, a certificate. I want something I can point at. Now, we can argue this is a major flaw in me but let’s not get personal! I know I am not alone. We live in a world where we are always trying to prove ourselves, to our friend, family, employers, potential employers. Even if we don’t get certificate based on assessment and ‘proof’ we know something, we like something tangible to show we are ‘doing something’.
The OER Evidence Report 2013-2014 does acknowledge this in their findings:
“the possibility of accreditation seems to be motivating to OER users, asOER Evidence Report 2013-2014 (p.33)
suggested by survey respondents when asked about ‘other’ factors that influenced their choice of OER:
“Transferable credits and job/ work experience
“Certificate of accomplishment or completion”
“Accreditation so that I can use to apply toward a degree or
for professional designation requirements (i.e. CPA)””
Whether it be a badge for participation, or a certificate based on some level of assessment, their is a great deal of motivation for the user in such a goal and we see several OER offering them. It is interesting to see OpenLearn describes this as ‘earn while you learn’ and describes their badge and statement offerings as “Earn a free digital badge or Statement of Participation as evidence of your learning to share with employers, friends and family.”
Accessibility: my third issue I’d like us to consider is accessibility to OER, for those with disabilities. The OER Evidence Report 2013-2014 refers to the importance of Open Education for those with disabilities in terms of access to education over all stating:
Analysis of users of The Open University’s OpenLearn OER platform suggest that OER can increase access to education for informal learners with disabilities with 16% of respondents reporting a disability, compared with the UK-wide figure of 8% disabled students in higher education. For all learners this figure came down to 11.1%OER Evidence Report 2013-2014 (p.17)
However, the report does not go into details about disabled users satisfaction or issues with technically accessing OER material such as can the material be used with a screen reader, are video and audio materials accompanied by closed captions or transcripts?
I’d direct people who may not have considered this aspect before to Open Education Handbook/OER & Accessibility
“If the outputs are not meeting appropriate accessibility requirements then they have failed to be ‘open’ before they have even left the building, and a sustainability decline has already commenced”
Accessibility as part of the content design needs to be implemented and addressed at the beginning.
Merlot.org have a dedicated portal addressing accessibility issues, solutions and a community of institutions and educators actively researching accessibility issues and how to implement solutions. There portal can be found here.
Please share any of your thoughts, ideas or comments – I’d love to hear them, it’s almost as good as getting a badge 😉
Beetham, H., Falconer, I., McGill, L. and Littlejohn, A. Open practices: briefing paper. JISC, 2012 https://oersynth.pbworks.com/w/page/51668352/OpenPracticesBriefing
de los Arcos, B., Farrow, R., Perryman, L.-A., Pitt, R. & Weller, M. (2014). OER Evidence Report 2013-2014.
OER Research Hub. Available from http://oerresearchhub.org/about-2/reports/