sue watling

 

The advantage of creating mini-animations like this is the need to identify key points. Long v short has been on my mind. along with application of theory to practice and the value of reflection. TELEDA Learning Block Three set out to recreate an online seminar. Colleagues were asked to read two papers before signing up for group discussions. Participation was good and highlighted positive effects of virtual learning. Time to think about responses. To post and read when convenient. Reflection on practice was encouraged. There were exchanges about wider issues around group work and useful advice for facilitating similar activities in the future.  So far so good.

But not all of it was positive. Blackboard came in for criticism again. Some colleagues find it unattractive and difficult to use. There were unfavourable comparisons to Facebook. These are valid points. Blackboard at Lincoln could look different. It has alternative communication modes which are not yet enabled. Not all tools are pretty. But for me, the activity highlighted a key problem with forums themselves. They are text heavy environments. If text is not your thing, then online learning is going to be a daunting experience.

For years I’ve promoted digital data as your flexible friend, inherently inclusive through text to speech and speech to text software. Expensive to buy, a challenge to use, but the technology for inclusion exists. Maybe I’ve been looking in the wrong place. Maybe digital text is itself the barrier.

For education developers the standard advice is to chunk text up, use bullets, paragraph breaks, images, formative assessment questions, activities – anything  to avoid lengths of dense prose. I don’t always follow this. The best feedback I got from the TELEDA pilot was how I had interesting things to say – but there was so much of it!

Learning block three has been a learning curve. I ask colleagues to participate online with no guidance or advice. It’s only when I started to read the posts I realised I wasn’t being helpful. I could give word limits. Raise awareness of the audio and video alternatives. Just because I’m happy with text doesn’t mean it applies to everyone.

Creating the PowToon animation while reading through the discussion forums has highlighted the long and the short of it. This PowToon presents in 49 seconds what I might have taken pages of text to describe yet it contains the key information. Aphorisms abound. Brevity is a virtue. Less is best. Keep it simple. Powtoon was also fun. After the first one they will be quicker to produce. Story board first. Keep under two minutes. Visit http://powtoon.com.

I need to engage online not create barriers. There is no substitute for reflection on action. I need to remind myself to reflect in action as well.

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The two papers were :

Roberts, T. S. and McInnerney, J. M. (2007) Seven Problems of Online Group Learning (and Their Solutions) Educational Technology and Society, 10 (4), 257-268 http://www.ifets.info/journals/10_4/22.pdf

Highton, M. (2009) Encouraging Participation in Online Groups (Originally written 2005 for University of Leeds. Updated 2009)https://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ltg/teachingwithtechnology/encouraging.pdf



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