Sunday, April 6, 2014

My Own Learning and Planning by Doing......

When I plan a project for DVC, I have always  drawn and made all the things that I am expecting the students to do. This serves multiple purposes for me. It helps me see the steps that need to be taken to complete the process, it lets me see where the bumps in the road might be, it helps me plan materials and equipment needs at different steps in the process and it gives me examples to show the students at the start of the project. I find that it always helps the students to see me actually do the tasks in front of them too. It lets them see the skills and processes in action, and it lets them see that I can do it and not just talk about it.
As an aside, I tend to do my drawings etc, in the staff room where I can join in chat while I work rather than sit by myself in my own classroom (I really don't like quiet while I work). I am always surprised by the number of staff members who walk past what I am doing and say things like "it must be nice to have the time to sit and do things like that". Seriously! So are they telling me that they do no planning and examples for their students? A colleague who knows of my frustration about this happening has taken to walking past and saying "colouring in again?" just to wind me up !! Anyway, back on to the topic....
With my research into blended learning, I have decided to follow the same process that helps me to understand what the students have to do and actually try it myself.
I have signed up for Future Learn. This is a MOOC mostly owned by the Open University, but they are partnered by a large list of Universities. Link here to Wikipedia with a brief explanation.
Here is an article in the Guardian about how this is changing the way people learn.
It was really easy to sign up for, an email and a password to set it up was all that was needed and I was in browsing their courses.
I have signed up for one called "The Mind is Flat" from the University of Warwick. It is a 6 week course and I am starting late as they have already been going for nearly two weeks. I didn't mind this as I thought it would give me a good insight into starting late, working at my own pace, catching up etc.

The Process

I signed up yesterday and I am in the process of working through the work from week 1.
When you log in, you see a screen that lists the courses you are signed up to.
I only have one here are this is all I am signed up for at the moment. It gives you a coloured graphic of where the course is up to and where you are up to on it (the blue parts are the bits I have done so far).


When you click onto your course, it is broken down into steps that you work through in each week. You can click back into weeks to look at what you have already gone through and to catch up, and you can click forward to see what is coming up in later weeks. As you work though each step, the colour changes from pink to blue so you can visually see where you are up to in the steps. These steps are a mix of discussions, articles and videos.





The videos that I have been watching so far are clear to hear and understand, with the lecturer talking to you against a plain background so there is no distractions. It lets you know how long the videos are before you play them so you can plan your time accordingly. Underneath the video is a download link so you can get a pdf of a transcript of what was said in the video. There is also an area to add comments as you are encouraged to discuss what you have seen in the video. To be honest, I found this quite intimidating as there was over 500 comments on some of the videos and as usual on the internet, it becomes an excuse for some people to show off about what they have read, disagree with the video that they have seen and generally be on their own box.
Once you are happy that you have completed a section, you click the pink "mark as complete" button and this then changes your progress colour to blue so you can see where you are up to when you log in next.






You can keep a check on your progress on this screen, where it tells you how much you have completed and any marks for tests that you have done. 
I have been going through all the steps on my iPad up to now, but you can do them on any device as you just have to log into the site on a browser. 



So what can I take away from this?
  • Progress on the course being visual and easy to keep up with.
  • Each week being broken down into small steps.
  • The videos are clear and easy to understand.
  • The videos are not too long each time so are easier to take in the whole thing.
  • The timing of the videos being stated before you click play so you know how much time to give them.
  • The transcripts of the videos being available to read afterwards. This is good with different accents, understanding etc might make videos alone not very accessible.
  • The chat / discussion / forum area of each section is a good idea but for younger students this needs to be more structured than just an open area. A particular focus for discussion needs to be put in place but I like the idea of the students on the course helping each other.
I have not got to the part where there are activities and tests yet.

Questions...

With the timetabling constraints within a secondary school, there are always students who would like to take my course but the timetable clashes with another subject.
Would I be able to set up an entirely online course for these students?
I feel that I would have to meet with them still to give face to face support on things they were unsure about, and it would have to be after school. How often would be enough to support an online course?
Would this give students the opportunity to gain more credits without it taking time and options off them during the school day? 
Would I be able to explain and support the skills needed in DVC enough for the students to produce work of a suitable standard?
How would students submit drawn work? 
Would the online students have to come in to the DVC room to use equipment? When would this happen?

I am fascinated by all these questions and I think my next step next week is to talk to particular students who I know did not take my course again this year due to timetable constraints, and see what they think.


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