Canvas Network Training Course

In preparation for the Participatory Arts MOOC which I am helping to develop, and which is being hosted on Canvas Network, Instructure asked us to complete this training and preparatory MOOC which, as always happens with MOOCs, I started enthusiastically in early March but was quickly lost amongst the sea of deadlines and urgent jobs.

As the university has chosen Canvas for our new VLE also, this should have given me a head start, but as things panned out I’ve ended up completing all of my onsite Canvas training first. Nevertheless, completing the MOOC was still a valuable exercise as there are some differences with Canvas Network and it did cover pedagogic issues which are specific to MOOCs, such as the types of assessment used and how to stimulate student engagement week on week.

I also earned a couple of badges, Canvas Network Groupie and Canvas Network Rock Star. These were issued through Badgr, another open badge platform which doesn’t link or share my badges to my Mozilla Backpack. I really want to like open badges, I love the concept, but the different platforms need to work with each other; I want to be able to display and collate all of my badges in one place, but the only way I am able to do that is by posting them all on my own website, here, under the Badge tag. The situation screams of the XKCD cartoon Standards.

What’s Wrong With Badges?

Having been issued with a couple of badges for completing the Learn Moodle MOOC, I was a bit confused when I logged into my Mozilla Backpack and found it a little light. I searched through my blog and sure enough I found my badge collection for the ocTEL course in 2014 was missing.

Took a little sleuthing to work out what’s going wrong. My Mozilla Backpack / Persona account was created with my old Northumbria email address, and later I added the Sunderland address. Some of my badges are associated with one email address, the rest with the other.

After working this out it did come back to me that when I moved to Sunderland I tried to change the email address associated with my account and when I did all my badges disappeared. They are permanently associated with my Northumbria account, and I don’t seem to have any way to change this. I got lucky back then in that my Northumbria account hadn’t been deleted yet and I was able to get access back for a day to retrieve my Persona account. If anything happens to my Persona account now and I need to reset the password, I don’t think I can. Nor do I seem to be able to move the badges associated with my Northumbria email address to my Sunderland one. And if when I log in to Persona I select the Northumbria email address I can’t even see the badges associated with the Sunderland one, or vice versa. What a complete and utter mess. The point of the Backpack was to have all of your badges in one place, and it fails. The only single authoritative list of all my badges anywhere online is this blog which is manually maintained. The point of Persona is… well… frankly I don’t know. I think Mozilla were trying to replace the username / password paradigm but it seems to have gained zero traction outside of Mozilla’s ecosystem and I wouldn’t trust it for a second given the dire state of my account. Or accounts, as it may be.

UPDATE: After writing this I actually did some research and discovered that Mozilla are shutting down Persona as it has failed in their objectives. No idea what’s going to happen to my Backpack or how I will log in after November. Maybe a change to some other authentication method will let me sort this all out.

SLS Innovation Event 2016

It’s that time of year again, the legendary SLS Innovation Event! And possibly the last one, as a pending University-wide restructure will soon mean the end of SLS in its current form.

This year’s carnival theme led to many bright, fun and exciting stalls and games. On our stall we had the Oculus Rift again, but this time we primarily ran a fairground ride called Cyberspace which features something you can only do in VR, jump off the ride while in motion. We made a game of this, getting people to see who could fly the furthest and winning a sweetie if you beat the current high score. The Rift was complemented by a demonstration of a fun new augmented reality app for iOS and Android called MSQRD, or Masquerade, which does funny things to your face, much like Snapchat’s new filters.

We also used Class Tool’s carnival appropriate random name picker to give away some little prizes and make people aware of the excellent resources on this site. Our balloon pop – with a star prize of a brand new car! – generated some noisy fun and a lot of mess. And finally, when we discovered that someone on the team could juggle, we couldn’t resist having a beat the juggler competition; juggle three balls for longer than Mel the Magnificent and you won a prize.

On the more serious side we were also raising awareness of Open Badges, awarding an attendance badge to anyone who came over to our stall and had a chat with us about how badges could work in their area to incentivise learners.

Obviously our stall was the best, and we were sorely cheated on the ‘Best Stall’ award (again!), but some other good stalls came form the Gateway team who managed to install a cinema, complete with popcorn, the CitySpace team with their sports related activities including a test your strength punchbag, and several teams who demonstrated their innovation by managing to have hook a duck games sans water. I won a duck on one of them, but proudest moment by far was being the only person to score the maximum 300 on an elastic band pinging thing for which I won a balloon bunny.

These events aren’t just to have a fun afternoon, they’re about all of the various scattered teams within SLS coming together to showcase the work they do for the benefit of the rest of us, so that we can work better as a department. It’s also where we celebrate excellence, with two awards given to celebrate personal and team excellence.

Session 6: Coaching at Work, Part 1

day_1_flipcharts

The first of a three day ‘mini-course’ within the module devoted to coaching. Today was all about coaching theory, tomorrow will be practical application, and then in around a month there will be a third day covering how you have implemented coaching in the real world and how to coach teams rather than individuals.

These sessions are being delivered by an external consultant, Matt Somers, who’s coaching model is based on the work of Tim Gallwey who’s work includes The Inner Game of Tennis which Matt recommended in particular for follow-up reading.

The day began with an exploration of what we each wanted to get out of the coaching sessions, and our collected responses can be seen in the first piece of flip chart paper in the attached photo. What I wanted to gain was to learn how to apply the principles of coaching in situations where people and teams are likely to be resistant, to coaching specifically but to any kind of change in general.

Next was the day’s first exercise and demonstration of the power of coaching. Standing in a circle we had to toss a ball between us, recording how long it took to do so. On our first attempt we did it in 20.1 seconds. Matt then asked us how we could do it in half the time. There were many iterations, and eventually we go it down to an incredible 0.15 seconds – I won’t tell you how, spoilers. The point of the exercise is that after each iteration we all thought we had done pretty well and, after the first two or three rounds, that we couldn’t possibly improve further, but by making us think about how we could half the time, instead of telling us to do so, or that it can be done, or other teams have done it faster, Matt was coaching us to push ourselves, to find our own solutions.

And that is the crux of coaching. It is about drawing people out, releasing potential, helping them to learn as opposed to teaching, training or counselling them. The role of the coach is to ask the right questions, to help motivate people and to remove internal barriers to success – internal interference as identified in the second piece of flip chart paper in the photo. These are factors such as low morale, a fixed mind-set, boredom, stress, low self-esteem, etc. There are also external factors of interference which a coach may not be able to do anything about, such as the influence of others, conflict, office culture and family problems.

Another important factor for success we discussed was motivation, and the importance of motivation in getting people to perform at a consistently high level. We identified three broad categories of motivator – performance, learning and enjoyment – which are distinct from routine day-to-day things such as salary, benefits or job security. What these three factors of motivation have in common is that they are largely internal, and thus can be developed with the help of coaching.

The day ended with another couple of exercises. ‘The Trials of Tell’ was designed to show the limitations of an instructive or commanding style by having one partner in a pair imagine themselves to be an alien who, lying flat on the floor, had no concept of the ability to stand, while the second partner had to instruct them on how to do so. The second exercise contrasted this by having someone who self-identified as clumsy and unable to catch a ball consistently, doing exactly that, with the aid of being peppered with coaching style questions as they were tossing the ball back and forth between themselves and Matt. Instead of commanding ‘Watch the ball’, asking closed questions, ‘Are you watching the ball?’, or asking interrogative questions, ‘Why aren’t you watching the ball?’, Matt started by asking ‘What do you notice about the ball?’ and then followed up with questions about the ball and exercise which were related to the catcher’s responses. In doing so Matt demonstrated two things, firstly the power of using questions as an effective means of getting people to think, rather than giving instructions, and secondly the nature of coaching questions: that they should be open and not closed, start off broad and then get narrower, follow the interests of the person being coached, and use their own words and responses in your follow-up questions to show that you are actively listening and engaging with them.

Finally, I’ll end this post with a couple of random quotes from the session. These are not Matt’s, but axioms he has picked up over his years as a coach and isn’t sure who to attribute them to:

"Quitting and going is bad, quitting and staying is worse."

"Learning is easier than being taught."

ALT Annual Survey Results 2015

ALT has published the report and data from their second annual survey which can be dowloaded here. Interesting reading as they now have comparative data from last year’s survey so you can see the trends and changes.

No signs of the monolithic VLE going anywhere just yet, and interest in the field of data and learning analytics is continuing to grow. I was a little surprised to see open badges so far down the list, but as a colleague in another department said to me a few days ago, employers don’t know what they are or how to value them, and as a consequence students just aren’t interested.

Dissertation

dissertation

"Crushed by Authority: Abjection and Oppression in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, The Trial and Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four"

This is my dissertation, submitted for the degree of MA English. 3 copies, around 60 pages, maybe 15,000 words or so in total.

The culmination of a year’s work of my life. A year spent reading and researching Kafka, Orwell and Kristeva. I used pretty much my entire allowance of holiday to take December off to finish writing this thing. It was a frantic and stressful month. This past week has been insane. The past 48 hours… well…

Today was the final day for me to mail it in on time and yesterday turned into an all-nighter. Been a long time since I had to pull one of those. I haven’t slept since I got up at 8:30 yesterday morning. I’m utterly done in.

And now it’s over. Submitted. And I have in front of me around two months of purgatory before I find out if it’s a pass. Part of me doesn’t care. I look at all the hard work that’s gone into this and I’m proud of it. It is a thing of beauty. In a day or two, when I feel human again, I’ll even print off another copy to go on my book shelf.

OERs: Using Free, Shared, Information Literacy Resources

rose_bowl_building

“The what and how of using, re-writing and sharing Open Educational Resources in HE and FE library contexts”. A one day conference run by the Yorkshire and Humberside Branch of the Academic and Research Libraries Group and hosted at Leeds Beckett University (in the Rose Bowl building, above).

Who Needs a Repository When You’ve Got Google?
Nick Sheppard – Repository Developer, Leeds Beckett University
http://www.slideshare.net/MrNick/cilip-oer

Nick started his presentation by exploring the differences between the Green and Gold models of open access publication of research papers and the current recommendations of the Finch Report and HEFCE, and the implications on library departments, particularly the potential for additional costs. He then moved on to demonstrate an OER resource he has created in Xerte, an interactive exploration of the SCONUL Seven Pillars model of information literacy, itself based on Creative Commons licensed OERs he found in Jorum. (And an hour later the news broke that Jorum would soon be no more!)

CoPILOT: What Can We Do For You?
Nancy Graham – Research Support and Academic Liaison Manager, London School of Economics

Nancy led a discussion on how to convince academics to use OERs and contribute their own materials to repositories. Challenges and barriers we identified included where to find suitable materials, concerns about quality, and relevance to their subject areas. Nancy then shared some of her research into reasons why people choose to use OERs which included personal recommendations from colleagues, reputation of the repository and relevance to their subject area, and clear Creative Commons license indicating allowed re-use. Finally Nancy told us about the Lilac Credo Award for Digital Literacy and recommended we put any good uses of OERs forward for consideration.

Skills@Library: Using and Creating OERs
Helen Howard – Learning Services Team Leader, University of Leeds
http://www.slideshare.net/hehoward/oers-at-skillslibrary

Helen gave us an overview of the Skills for Learning provision at the University of Leeds and shared their experience in developing their resources. Considerations included identifying core skills which all students should have and how best to present the Skills for Learning material to those students. From their experience Helen recommended working with academics to embed the Skills for Learning materials in student’s core curriculum, ideally linked to learning outcomes and including an element of assessment. All of their materials were published as OERs accompanied by lesson plans and notes on how to use them.

OERs for People With no Technical Skills and No Money
Sarah George – Subject Librarian, University of Bradford
http://www.slideshare.net/sgeorge71/creating-oers-with-no-technical-skills-and-new

Sarah presented an extended case study of their experience developed OERs in very short timescales and with no budget. One thing they tried was re-purposing OERs from other institutions and Sarah discussed some of the problems they experienced, including the difficulty in removing the branding from certain types of document, such as PDFs, and the inability to do any kind of editing of others, such as those created with Storyline. One tool they used successfully was SlideGo, an online tool that converts PowerPoint files into HTML5 web presentations, to good effect according to Sarah. Something else which she demonstrated was a home-made method of doing simple quizzes in PowerPoint by utilising internal links applied to objects and shapes.

The Results Are In – I Passed!

Just a little aside from the hurly burly of work and TEL to celebrate the fact that I passed the taught module on my MA English which I am doing through the Open University.

This was a double-length module and was assessed by five TMAs (Tutor Marked Assignments) which were aggregated and one EMA (End of Module Assignment) which I had to pass separately. The EMA was 5,000 words, so my largest piece of academic writing to date, and bridges the gap between prescribed assignments and independent research; there were limited options on texts and research areas which I had to choose between and then write my own question and proposal. My EMA was ‘How does Kim engage with the increasing British interest in Tibet in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century?’ and I passed with my highest score on the module, quite an achievement given that, roughly speaking, students are thought to drop around 10% on an exam or EMA.

My dissertation module starts in May and my thinking is either something around abjection or the ‘unheimlich’ in Gothic / horror literature, or the response to Scottish politics by Burns and Scott.