Reinventing lurking as working #socmedHE16

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Last week I attended The Empowered Learner; the 2016 Social Media for Learning in Higher Education Conference (#socmedHE16) at Sheffield Hallam University.

The Keynote for last year’s conference was Eric Stoller with his amazing Star Wars effect opening.  You can make your own this Christmas.  Eric was always going to be a hard act to follow and the conference organisers didn’t try. They offered a Key-Not instead.

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A Key-Not translated as an activity. We were divided into four groups depending on the colour cup we’d chosen. Sneaky – I didn’t see that coming! The task was to use a social medial tool(s) and collaboratively build a resource for the ’empowered’ learner. My group – the Yellow Custard Stirrers – used Adobe Spark to show how to set up a Facebook Group and invite participants. We won! Well done fellow Stirrers – may your custard never go lumpy!

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The Key-Not was followed by two traditional style presentations. After the frenetic activity of the previous hour, it felt strange to be back in passive audience mode. The mobile devices came out and people slipped back into isolation from each other while remaining connected to the virtual. What saved it – for me – was these were two of the best presentations of the day.

I want to blog about Andrew Middleton’s presentation separately. ‘Social Media as a Critical Future Learning Space’ resonated on lots of different levels.

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I blogged about space earlier this year in a post titled Simultaneous Existence and want to go back to the subject, in particular the ssignificance of interstitial space.

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The first presentation by Sarah Honeychurch was about lurking. Now I lurk, you lurk, we all lurk but the word has negative connotations. Traditional definitions include sinister, threatening and unpleasant while its latest linguistic incarnation in relation to discussion forums suggests to lurk is an incorrect or inappropriate thing to do.

I want to re-imagine lurking as working.

In these days of information overload through TEL, email, cloud computing and social media, we are mostly not waving but drowning I would suggest just being there online – long enough to register what’s happening before moving on to the next task – is about as much as anyone can manage.  If we re-invent lurking as less something negative, more a positive affirmation and recognition that we managed to get there in the first place, we could then change attitudes to ‘didn’t we do well!’

There’s lots of ways learning and teaching in HE use social media e.g.#lthechatTLC webinars#creativeHE community – and I’m sure these are all places where lurkers lurk, simply to keep up to date and check they’re not missing anything useful. Social Media is the single most valuable network of curated content which can be customised by choosing who to follow and which events to attend – even if it is in a lurking capacity. To lurk is better than not being there at all. It really is time for a linguistic turn.

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Language matters. I don’t like to hear training or skills being used in relation to my TEL work and try to avoid the words lecture capture. Words like these carry connotations which don’t sit well with the objectives of enhancement and innovation which sit within my own interpretation of TEL.

So here’s to lurking as working. Remember – I lurk, you lurk, we all lurk. To lurk is a coping mechanism. It means we care enough to make the time to log on and check what’s happening in our own spheres of interest while also – apart from anything else – not everyone wants to be in the digital spotlight. Lurkers should be proud of their background activity and online bloggers, tweeters, and activity creators be pleased to have them there. A silent audience is better than no audience at all. Remember – as the email goes quiet and the festivities begin – it’s good to lurk and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.


postscript

On the BBC News today people are advised to take a break from social media over the Christmas period as lurking may make them miserable and depressed <sigh>


 

The Empowered Learner #SocMedHE16

Social Media Conference Banner

Friday morning. 6.41 train from Hull. Heading to Sheffield Hallam University. It’ll be dark and cold but well worth it to attend the second Social Media for Learning in Higher Education Conference ‘The Empowered Learner

I’m helping facilitate a ‘socially mediated workshop about developing a social media workshop’ The repetition is deliberate and the workshop will be using the UCISA Social Media Toolkit as a baseline. The Toolkit offers a useful guide for universities using social media tools. what ever the reason; learning, teaching, research or administration – it preempts some of the questions which might be asked and contains a wealth of advice and support from those who’ve already tipped their digital toes in the social media waters.

UCISA Social Media Toolkit front cover

The rest of the programme looks interesting – as always, the perennial problem is selection – which to choose and which to miss.

The Keynote has been retitled Key-Not. The rationale for this intriguing name will be revealed on the day. If you can’t gt to Sheffield there’s an online option. The conference website says ‘If you are free between 9.15 and 11.15, will be online and like a challenge you are invited to participate directly in our online version of the Key-Not.  Please email socmedhe@shu.ac.uk with ‘Key-not’ in the subject line and we’ll fill you in.  Otherwise, watch out for a million tweets in the morning, and keep an eye on this page.’  The Twitter hashtag is #SocMedHE16 and some of the sessions will be periscoped – see the conference website for further details.

Yesterday there was an announcement. To coincide with the national event, this year’s conference would also celebrate the Great British Christmas Jumper.

Ooops – I don’t have one.

The closest I get is a little Ode written last month when colleagues were starting to discuss the annual CJ – so in the spirit of Christmas Jumpering, and the absence of one of my own (not to mention taking advantage of social media!) I include it here.

Have a good conference everyone.


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the truth is out there somewhere

image of a magnifying glass over the word truth and the words lies appearing beneath the glass

Critical digital literacy should be embedded throughout the higher education experience. We all need effective ways to tell the difference between truth and lies, not just for ourselves but those around us. In 1970, Alvin Tofler called our information explosion the Third Wave, the next greatest social movement following the Agrarian and Industrial ages. What would he say if he could see us now – not waving but drowning in information overload!

Yet the quantity is the least of our problems. It’s the quality which matters. New genres have appeared, in particular since since Brexit and Trump.

Da da!

introducing

Post Truth and Fake Truth.

image of the word truth as a jigsaw with missing pieces

They sound similar but there’s a difference. Post truth, most often used in connection with politics, appeals to emotions rather than presenting factual evidence. With Post Truth, what is true is secondary to getting that emotional hit, appealing to the personal and turning it into political action. Fake Truth or False Truth is another way to describe spin. Also known as Fake News/False News, it describes not so much the misinformation but the spreading of it via social media. Like Chinese Whispers, the story changes, getting further away from the original sources, picking up more emotional overtones as it travels on through digital space and time.

black and white image of a pile of books demonstrating different genres

A genre is born when new ways to structure and present information are created. Genres can be different styles of creative writing such as the thriller, detective or horror novel or it can be categories and styles of non-fiction news. Today we have what could be called genres of lies; deliberately false information masquerading as truth with the sole purpose of persuasion.

George Monbiot writes about the misinformation machines. He claims huge amounts of money are spent on setting up international and corporate think-tanks, bloggers and fake citizens’ groups. Their objective is swaying the hearts and minds of the electorate over big issues like immigration, employment and climate change. (Monbiot also refers to Trump and hyporeality which sounds to me ike Baurillard’s hyperreality nightmare come true – I think this may be is next week’s topic sorted!)

Falsity is not new. The internet has always been full of lies as has the world of advertising. At the beginning of the 20th Century, Edward Bernays applied the psychoanalytic ideas of his Uncle Siggy to persuade young women to smoke and increase the popularity of the colour green. His techniques were called Public Relations or Propaganda, depending if you were on stage controlling the show or in the audience watching it. Century of the Self by the brilliant documentary film maker Adam Curtis tells how America learned to take control of its population. Using archive footage, he tells the story of how Bernays, nephew to Sigmund Freud, laid the foundations of mental manipulation by the media, showing how ‘desire’ was created and blurred boundaries between truths and lies were established.

Control of the media equates with control of the people. George Orwell portrayed this as ‘Big Brother‘ in the novel 1984 and showed how deliberately  vague or meaningless language was used to conceal the truth in his essay Politics of the English Language.  In Understanding Media The Extensions of Man, (1964) Marshall McLuhan predicted the medium as well as the message would influence attitudes and behaviors while Neil Postman claimed we would be Amusing Ourselves to Death (1984) as the platforms of the public sphere were taken over by cable tv’s multiple channels leaving no place for discussion and critique of political discourse.

Were these writers prescient? Do we recognise the world they predicted?

digital divide with a page and an ipad

Early founders of the internet claimed it was a tool for social democracy because it offered equal access to information. Instead we have digital exclusion as the new but invisible category of social and economic discrimination. The development of user generated content via sites like Facebook and Twitter was hailed as a tool for the revolution, giving voice to minority groups and bestowing powers of resistance and subversion. Instead, we have a mess.

image showing social media logos from pixabay

For vast swathes of the population, social media has become the single source of truth. Mobile digital media supports speed swapping of news, presented in soundbites and video clips. Adjective heavy headlines and sensational straplines frame news stories telling the reader how to emotionally approach them. Reality TV confuses truth and fiction, magazine industries are built on ‘true’ confessions while multi-channel news is invaded by false news stories. As well as Monbiot, this weeks’ Guardian also has Roy Greenslade on Post Truth and the art of lies citing Barack Obama and his observation the morning after the US election that how the ‘new media ecosystem‘ of social media means ‘everything is true and nothing is true‘.

It seems this is the week for talking about truth.

But of course, after reading all this, you may not believe a single word I have said.

Panopto Power and the American Dream

As a team we’re askedimg_1845 to feed back on conferences and other excursions. This week was my first Panopto Conference and I headed off to London. It was dark, cold and raining and the car park ticket machine was broken. The message said try another machine but at Hull Station there isn’t one. I leave a note in my car saying I have photographic evidence of being unable to pay and splash through puddles towards the station. It can only get better.

Registration is 9.00 for a 10.00 start. At 10.00 I’m at Liverpool Street trying to get to Tower Hill. I’ve already confused the Central and Circle line and nearly ended up in Berking. How can this be? I used to live here – I should know my way around better than this! img_1848

One disadvantage of being late is the limited view from the back but a crowded room is a good sign. Key messages throughout the day were on the theme of ‘video enhances learning‘ and supports making teaching memorable through emotional, entertaining or traumatic approaches.

Video can make possible what can’t be done in real time. During our digital storytelling workshops Chris Tompson played a video which included the death of a child. You don’t get much more emotional than that. I remember it to this day.

Entertaining is self-explanatory. We all like to laugh.

Learning through trauma is potentially risky but also powerful. In my previous institution a nurse educator would faint on a simulation ward round. The clue was in the word simulation but it was so well done as the co-lecturer called on the students for help and they were plunged from theory to sudden practice.

Video can show what you wouldn’t want to see in real life, for example disaster scenarios, or where the best laid plans can go wrong. We all prefer ‘health and safety’ messages when they’re presented in dramatic form on film. It makes it so much more real than talk or text. This is the power of Panopto. It supports a range of teaching resources which make it a useful tool for exploring the use of video and audio within learning design.

The event was held in the basement of the America Square Conference Centre in central London. This is where the streets are tiny and have names like Crutched Friars, Savage Gardens and Seething Lane. Refreshments and lunch were in a room containing a stretch of original City of London wall. Either London has risen significantly or the wall foundations were amazingly deep.

Everyone I spoke to from other institutions had cameras installed in their teaching rooms and an opt-in policy. Many had been using Panopto for some time. At Hull we’re at the start of the journey. The plan is to introduce it from the perspective of learning design and digital story telling but there’s still the question of technical confidence. Digital capabilities are never far away.  The challenge is to find the balance between the how, the why and the where and to keep the pedagogical reasons why Panopto might support learning and teaching near the surface of all our conversations.

The conference included a student panel answering questions on the value of video as a teaching tool. Students spoke of a range of ways they were introduced to video before, during and after face-to-face sessions. Students also recorded themselves for observation and feedback on performance.

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Like all technology it seems Panopto is often used on a surface level with less people engaging with features like the synchronous and asynchronous notes or the search feature. One student said I just go in there and do what I need, I don’t look around. This reinforced the risk of making assumptions about how learning technologies are used. Also, similar to complaints about VLE, students didn’t like inconsistency of use across modules because it created an uneven learning experience. Direct recording lectures was the least mentioned activity. With regard to these affecting attendance, students were unanimous in agreeing it made no difference. Fee paying students were even more likely to go to lectures and students who stayed in bed would miss them anyway – regardless of whether or not they were recorded.

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This is what the research literature suggests but it’s always reassuring to hear it directly as it’s the most commonly repeated comment from academic staff.

The  TEF gets in everywhere these days, in this instance the question being ‘will the TEF drive more use of technology enhanced learning?‘ something all TEL-Teams should be asking. How can TEL support undergraduate students in having an excellent experience?  We might argue about what teaching excellence is and how to measure it, but TEF is an opportunity to revisit how teachers teach and learners learn. There is little doubt the internet is changing how content is produced and consumed and one suggestion was to take note of how students use Facebook and You Tube to gather and share content, then build this into our learning designs. Back to digital capabilities. You need to be digitally active in order to understand learning design in the 21st century.

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Panopto’s CEO flew in from Seattle to present a road-map including a host of new features:

  • More accurate recording of system audio
  • Highlight mouse cursor
  • The ‘middle-way’ – using phone or tablet app, log in with SSO  and recording goes to your own folder
  • Rewind and pause on the webcast using HLS technology so users can pause, walk away, resume etc
  • Discussion tab enabling live chat on webcast
  • Access controls on subfolders
  • All users have their own folder/sandbox
  • Curated home page on cloud based Panopto with grid layout to look more like You Tube
  • Moved away from silverlight on editing, now HTML 5 and going to eliminate all Flash in the future
  • Subeditior now more precise for cutting
  • Undo button with sequence of changes
  • Can rename video streams
  • Changes to how captions are displayed colours etc to improve access and going to offer choice to user
  • Can designate sign-in rather give users a choice

Overall it was a useful event although I’d have liked more opportunity for Q&A sessions. It’s not often academics and learning technologists are in the same room aquestions-pixabaynd it’s the sharing of practice and asking ‘How did you do that? which is so valuable.

Coming home from London on Virgin Trains East Coast is always the opposite to arriving on First Hull Trains. The wi fi was poor. I didn’t get the home page for my free 15 minutes until Doncaster and the plug socket gave up after 7%. Standing room only meant no coffee. I like the quiet coach but was sat next to someone who liked it even more, to the extent he pointed out to everyone how the sign on the window saying quiet was the opposite of what they were doing.  An argument ensued as to whether quiet mean mobile devices or any conversation. When the catering trolley finally got through – after Grantham – my fellow traveller, who had told everyone he didn’t want to listen to their conversations, chose crisps. Hardly a quiet option but hey ho – this is life.virgin-trains-east-coast

After Newark Northgate the Hull effect kicked in and the train started to empty. By Selby I’m the only one left in my compartment and can make as much noise as I like. It’s cold. I guess they’ve turned the heating off, and I feel for Bob the Driver whose flat northern tones announce every stop and end with ‘thank you for choosing to travel with Virgin trains’. I’m not sure how the only through train between 3.40 and 7.10 constitutes a choice but I get back safely which is all that matters and I don’t have a parking ticket. Just an iced up windscreen and no de-icer. Hey ho. I listened to the radio while the ice melts and conclude President Donald Trump is the epitome of the American Dream. just as it was outlined in their Declaration of Independence. Be careful what you wish for. It might come true.

I get home 15 hours after setting off and pour a large medicinal brandy – it’s chilly out there and I don’t want to catch cold.

simultaneous existence

planets in outer space

I have a colleague who is researching space. Not the outer space of stars or the inner space of quarks. Not the digital space of VLE or social media. This is real space. The space we exist in. The space we breath in and out, in and out…

Which raises the question – what is space? I’m not sure I’ve asked myself that before.

Space. We pass through it. Things pass through it. It’s the container in which we live and I can understand the air being of interest to a chemist or sports scientist. After all it keeps us alive but other than that it’s just the physical distance between objects – isn’t it?

diagram of distances between the sides of a triangle

How can you research space of the day-to-day kind?

It seems space has interested researchers for some time. There is Lebrevre’s Spacial Triad, Soja’s Thirdspace and Foucault’s Heterotopia. My Marx is a little rusty but I recall the notion of capital blurring measures of space where technologies enable the crossing of traditional boundaries of time and place – thereby compressing them. As in McLuhan’s global village and the virtual spaces of the internet. I think. Then there’s the liminal space of thresholds, the space between concepts and worlds and one of my favourites – the transient space of hotels and airports which we pass through on our way to and from different locations.

It seems space can be both physical and conceptual.

diagram of theoretical quarks

How often do we stop to think about the characteristics of the spaces within and between the places we inhabit?  Have you ever thought of space as socially constructed with inherent meanings which we replicate and reinforce, absorbing them without even being conscious of it. For social scientists interested in the origins of attitudes and behaviors, researching space may hold intriguing clues.

So what is the difference between the space I inhabit at work and the space I operate in online. Digital space. For me, the connected internet is a place/space I go into. If the internet is down I’m shut out. When I’m online with colleagues we are connected much the same as if we were in the same room. Now I’m thinking about how I exist in both of them at the same time. Walk across campus and every other person (or more) is also existing simultaneously in both the real and the digital world.

open laptop with the word learning on the screen

In education development we’ve treated the virtual as something external to us and different. Applied different rules and said it requires different pedagogical approaches. But how different is it to generations born into a social media society, who are accustomed to the simultaneous existence enabled by their mobile devices?

Maybe we see the virtual as different because we have analogue roots.

Maybe, instead of highlighting the differences between the two types of space ,we should be looking at the similarities instead.


digital detective #playlearn16

This week I’m at the Birley Campus of MMU attending the Playful Learning Conference #playlearn16. Thank you @UCISA for the bursary which made this amazing experience possible.  I say amazing because playing games takes me right out of my comfort zone.

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Youngest son works here at Birley and while we were chatting about the conference, he reminded me how playing board games was an integral part of his childhood. Before this week I can’t remember the last time I opened a board game box. There’s lots of them here  week but now – as then  – computers are competing for attention.

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We used to have a ZX Spectrum when that was cutting edge – and a shoe-box full of games. Today eldest son still plays WarHammer but youngest is a digital gamer. Thanks to him I can talk about Grand Theft Auto, Heavy Rain and Witcher. Love the graphics but still much to learn about the multitasking demands of an Xbox console! I’m more of a vicarious game-player rather than a real one and with regard to play it’s more the creativity aspects which interest me. I’m part of the #creativeHE network and we’ve just finished another open online week. With the conversations still fresh in my mind, of the questions I arrived with on Wednesday was how play and games might link up with creative approaches to HE. In particular, could I find ways to be more creative with introducing staff to TEL and developing digital capabilities.  The conference isn’t over yet so there’ll be blog posts to follow which try and answer this. In the meantime I’m reflecting on the power of crowd sourcing to find things forgotten things.

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This week I was defeated by Google. It started with a poet and the title of a book of poems. I couldn’t remember either. All I knew was male with a cancer diagnosis, northern England, something to do with a year spent in a sheep pen or shepherd shelter, within the last decade and I thought I’d read about him in the Guardian.  I didn’t expect it to be a problem. After all you can find anything with Google – can’t you?

But it was and I couldn’t. On and off for a couple of days I tried variations of all the bits I could I could remember, confident Google would pick up something which would trigger what I needed.  It didn’t. Instead it was an lesson in how Google makes overt decisions based on popularity and how this can prevent any covert, deeper connections from taking place. William Wordsworth and James Rebanks  came up again and again. I learned some interesting asides like Yan Tan Thethera, an old english counting method, but could not discover my poet.

Then I thought – Library!

So I sent a tweet to @HullUni_Library who shared it with @hull_libraries from where it was picked up by @BookjacketsHQ who gave me the answer – all within minutes. Could it be Glyn Hughes ‘A Year in the Bull Box’. Not sheep but cattle. Yes – it could and it was!

image of a tweet with correct answer Glyn Hughes

Wrong beast but I’m not convinced it would have made much difference. When I briefly tried the same search terms, substituting cattle for sheep, still no luck. So thank you Lyn Fenby. I have the book of poems I needed for the final year of my creative writing course as well as discovering the rest of the work of Glyn Hughes who died in 2011 The Guardian Glyn Hughes Obituary.

library

With hindsight the library (shown above reconstructed in Minecraft) may have been the most obvious place to start but turning digital detective was an automatic conditioned behaviour.

The implications for learning and teaching are reassuring. One of the affordances of VLE is alleged to be supporting student independence so using search engines is part of induction processes while a core element of digital literacy is the authentication and validation of online resources. Of course, the internet doesn’t have the answers. It’s how we use it that counts. With regards to my poet, it was people who made the difference and, like reliving the value of playing board games at this Playful Learning event, it’s good to be reminded how being human in the digital age is what matters most of all.

playful learning

emoticon https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.emojiworld.sademojis 

On innovative pedagogy; looking behind as well as forwards #lthechat

Simon Rae’s illustration from the #lthechat Innovative Pedagogy

What does pedagogical innovation look like? Q2 from this weeks #lthechat on Twitter has stayed with me. Share an example of pedagogic innovation you experienced as a learner. I don’t remember many individual lessons or lectures but what does come back is learning by doing. Making butter in milk bottles. Spinning frames of honeycomb. Growing crystals in Chemistry. The effect of alcohol on individual response times in Psychology.  Visits to factories and fishing docks. Geology on the coast and Geography on the Wolds. Then I look at VLE and think how can pedagogic innovation be experienced via a laptop or other mobile device? While digital media offers useful alternatives to plain text, virtual learning experiences continue to risk being flat and isolating which in turn means they are too often ignored.

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image from https://pixabay.com/en/false-worse-off-shield-note-98375/

The phrase pedagogic innovation reminded me of the annual Innovating Pedagogies reports produced by the OU   These suggest ways digital technology can extend and enhance learning. After this week’s tweetchat I revisited them looking for inspiration. It’s always interesting to look back with hindsight. Badges, MOOC, BYOD, ebooks, gaming and big data all make appearances. The word ‘learning’ is prefaced with seamless, crowd, event based, flipped, storytelling, context, computational, incidental, embodied and rhizomatic; all presented as examples of innovation. I’m looking for ways to transfer repository models of VLE use to more interactive learning opportunities but while there is theory in abundance the practice is less easy to achieve. I set up a discussion forum but no one used it so I didn’t bother again is an often-heard phrase. It’s a familiar scenario yet social media and mobile devices are making digital communication common and every year more of our lives are being lived out online so why does effective pedagogic use VLE remain so challenging?

black and white image o the Matterhorm mountain
image from https://pixabay.com/en/matterhorn-switzerland-mountain-918442/

When it comes to barriers to digital engagement, VLE are high on the list. They’re not always attractive and, like it or not, appearance matters. Many resemble digital depository dumps when long lists of links can be a deterrent. Most staff are not learning technologists or designers so the expectation they will create interesting, interactive sites may be unrealistic. Too often VLE themselves are presented as solutions to student diversity, retention, access and attainment when they are simply content containers. It’s how they’re used which makes the difference and this not only requires pedagogic knowledge and experience, it demands higher levels of digital capabilities than are too frequently assumed to exist.

Mark Styles 2007 paper Death of the VLE has not aged. It remains relevant today and maybe more so, as social media offer alternatives. Likewise Oleg Liber’s Framework for Pedagogical Evaluation of eLearning Environments which is usefully read alongside Jisc’s Review of e-learning theories, frameworks and models by Mayes and de Freitas.  Meanwhile the monolithic VLE rampages on. Blackboard grows larger, Moodle continues to hold its own and Canvas is emerging as a serious contender. VLE remain centre stage of most institutional digital education strategies whereas it should be pedagogy at the top. VLE useage mirrors existing practice and so long as this continues to follow traditional transmission and knowledge replication  models, online environments are unlikely to be anything different.

The questions asked on this weeks #lthechat would be a useful basis for any education development workshop but as they showed, innovative pedagogy is about looking behind as well as to the future. When it comes to technology enhanced learning, innovation is good but the advantage of hindsight means looking to what’s already happened can be even better.

Tweetroot of #lthechat
Tweetroot of #lthechat

#lthechat pedagogic innovation questions asked by Professor Ale Armellini (@alejandroa) 01/06/16

  • Q1: What does “pedagogic innovation” mean to you?
  • Q2: Share an example of pedagogic innovation, which you experienced as a learner.
  • Q3: Share one criterion that, in your view, innovative pedagogic practice in HE should meet or exceed (for example innovation should enable x or make y possible)
  • Q4: Share 1 example (initiative, trend, new concept) hailed as pedagogically innovative. Does it meet the criterion identified in Q3?
  • Q5: Do you agree with the message conveyed in the attached slide? What is that message, exactly?

two column table comparing past and present approaches to learning and teaching

  • Q6: What will your next pedagogic innovation be? (Please be uber creative here! no pressure…)