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.

red sign with the message wrong way in white letters
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…)