Thursday, June 20, 2013

Learning strategies

Learning strategies
In this blog I am going to show two different learning strategies that I believe have merit to be used in the current and future course’s that I deliver for the Otago Polytechnic automotive training course.
Strategy one: Blogging

Student perspective
Use online blogs to become a living diary of the students experiences outside of polytechnic, get them to ask questions to fellow students and facilitator’s through the blog as they reflect on what they have experienced in industry or personal life. Interact with fellow students on a professional level and increase each other’s knowledge in the automotive industry. Students can provide videos, pictures, links to web documents and their own personal statements of their current knowledge. Provides a record to their facilitator of work experience and practical learning they do out of polytechnic. 
Facilitator perspective
Use the blog to assess what each student is finding relative and interesting to help keep teaching material current to students needs. E.G. if students are talking about a certain subject the facilitator can adapt their teaching material to provide more information/understanding of that subject. This could make the experience more active from the facilitator’s perspective and create an organic experience for the students. The facilitator will need to make sure they keep the material relevant to course outcomes but flexible enough to accommodate student interests.
Use the student’s blog to compile a record of what practical experiences can be used as assessment or record of prior learning and record their work experience hrs.
How does this make the course more flexible?
If used correctly the blog could become a powerful tool that allows the student the flexibility to personalize their experience the what, where and when they are learning, give them the opportunity to learn more about the industry at their own pace. Have input to what the class is learning about and provides reserved students a way of posing questions to the class. By showing each other what they have been experiencing the students will have the ability to learn of each other’s experiences and get more enthusiastic about the industry, which in turn drive them to become more active learners. By having an active resource online the course becomes more interactive and will appeal to the social and connected student that is now the norm.
Resources required implementing this concept
To get this to work minimal resources are required, access to computers are the main problem and not all students have smart phones, but if computer classes where timetabled and access to computers was available it would just take bye in from the students. Also some students may require basic computer lessons to start blogging.

Overall Strategy and Dimensions for using Blogging

Strategy two: Interactive training game
Student perspective
Program provides interesting and reactive way to learn content. Adapts to student ability and provides challenge to encourage progress. They learn logical thinking skills that will help when doing the practical tasks that are required to be an automotive technician. The program provides access to a variety of learning strategies, which makes the content more flexible to different learning styles. Set up in such away the students can see the relevance of what they are learning. Giving the students “real life” problems that get the students to learn and demonstrate strategies that are relevant to give them confidence in modern industry.  

Facilitator perspective
The program can be used to guide the students through the material and learning outcomes in a logical fashion. The reports available from the program can show skill level and what method of delivery each student prefers; this will allow a more customized course for each student. Allows for theory assessment to be done on line. Gives prior learning for the practical task. Encourages active learning because program resembles “real life” problems.
How does this make the course more flexible?
One of the biggest problems with the students of this generation is their “attention span” and in part it’s a modern world complaint. Because they want “everything now” and wont engage in any task longer than fifteen minutes. The gameification method provides a medium that demands their input which turns them into the facilitator, making them have the control of the learning. This negates the short attention span and provides a level of engagement that is very difficult to obtain in these modern students.
Don’t believe me!  How do you think facebook and youtube have become so popular within a modern society? They both cater for (some would say have created) this short attention span. Facebook games and mobile games are now hugely popular and reach a wide variety of people. So by taking this approach and adapting it to the course program the modern student will embrace this level of interaction over say making them sit through 2-3hr theory lessons that switch them of entirely or making them read ever increasing amounts of material online that does not respond them and makes them feel disconnected from the course.
The gameification platform incorporates different learning styles and is flexible in delivery, gives instant response and encourages participation and active learning what more could you want?
Resources required implementing this concept
Now this is where we have a problem to create this “game” the resources will be incredibly large. IT support and program designers working with trades people to create this interactive learning program will cost!!! But if done correctly the program could be used worldwide and generate income that would make the course stainable.
Do we look to the future and create this stainable learning environment or do we only look for temporary fixes that will just work in the mean time?
Let me know what you think about my ideas, like all ideas they will adapt with more thought and input from other people.

Overall Strategy and Dimensions for using Blogging

Monday, June 10, 2013

OER and OEP in my context

OER and OEP in my context
What I find in the current course I teach in regard to Open Educational Resources, the concept of using OER is the only way in a modern world to get students to engage and become active learners in a world where everything is connected and interaction between their peers is so important to their lives.
The down side to delivering any material to a modern student is that the internet may have an answer that contradicts (remember the internet is always correct) with what you have delivered.
The concept of what OER stands for is it’s only a natural progress of teaching towards modern students, to integrate the evolving internet connected world and if this doesn’t happen we as training providers run the risk of becoming obsolete to an expanding world. That’s how I see it anyway.
When I was getting trained (many moons ago) all the information that I had access to was provided by the training provider and often produced by the training provider. I would have loved to have the access to information that we do now and I can only imagine where I would be now if I had those resources available. But this is a double sided sword. On one hand all this information and ways of delivering content is amazing, sometime even scary. On the other the modern student wasn’t brought up when I was and most do not have the same values towards knowledge that I have and this is impart due to their being this overwhelming availability towards information, interaction and interpretation of what they find on the www.
This is where I believe it is our responsibility as facilitators in learning to ‘screen the content’ and ensure they become aware of the information in the appropriate order to actually give them the tools to handle and comprehend what they are “seeing”.
I know it sounds like we are being parents to them and in some ways we are responsible to guide the student through the course and allow them to grow and evolve into capable, confident, and future focused, work ready students (I bet you have heard that before).
That is where the Open Educational Practices come in to play. As we accumulate this knowledge and material in different formats and provided it to the class there needs to be a common practice to ensure we don’t lose focus on what as facilitators we set out to achieve and keep the course relative and achievable towards the students.

image taken from

If the facilitators get lost in the www. then what hope do the students have?
 What does this mean in my teaching context?
Utilizing these concepts from above and finding ways to incorporate them into my teaching can be a challenge, It is relatively easy to search for material and anyone who use’s search engines will know that it often is surprising what results are apparent. But then taking these results and moderating them to ensure they work with your course not against it, is one of the key factors to ensure my course relates to the students and drives them to want to learn.
I am open to my students giving me examples of material they have found and discussing with them how it relates to what we are learning about and trying to get them to the point that they can decide for themselves if what they have come across is true, relative and above all makes sense. This from what I have seen does empower the students with the confidence to become the students that industry, training provider and facilitator want.
Creating students that are active in their learning creates sustainable practice and by listening to what the students say and trying to see the world through their eyes will adapt my teaching methods to create a sustainable future in all aspects of my course.
After the students have reached this point in their journey it is a case of guiding them to become “what if” students not “I can’t” students.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Sustainability and flexible learning

What is Educational sustainability mean to me and how do I embed Flexible learning into a sustainable teaching practice?

The Oxford dictionary states that the definition of Sustainable is:
·         Able to be maintained at a certain rate or level
·         Able to be upheld or defended
So to me sustainability must be the “ability to sustain” whatever subject is being discussed e.g. the environment, the economy.
When you look at the word Sustainability it suggests that we are trying to just sustain what we are doing. In a teaching context that is implying to me that as teachers we only want to create a practice that sustains a current level of education that is “able to be maintained at a certain rate or level”.
But I would a say we also need to include “growth” into our sustainable practice and encourage creativity, diversity, technology and always make sure that this practice reflects on its design to maintain a sustainable future in the teaching, financial, social economic, environmental and political context.
Reading through and watching the resources for module six, I had one a question that kept popping into my head.
Does sustainability encourage growth or restrain it?
I would like to think sustainability is like the anchor that keeps modern practices on the straight and narrow, like a big brother that makes you think of the ramifications of what you are doing and how it affects everything around you.
How does sustainability influence my teaching practices?
When I design, implement, consider, and adapt any material or class resources both now and into the future, I must reflect and take into account how what I am doing is going to be sustainable in context with my practice.
 What are the influences that govern how sustainability affects my teaching context?

The above diagram shows how I see what factors have to be taken into account when creating learning experiences. All of the above factors can be expanded upon in more detail and as I learn/experience more I am sure the factors and influences that I take into account will grow as well.
In some ways the above factors could be seen as restraints to the creativity of the course, student or teacher. But I prefer to think of them as a “necessary evil” that keeps the material focused and relevant to a modern society and maintains a high quality of standard in my workmanship.
P.S. If you haven’t watched Sir Ken Robinson discuss Do schools kill creativity? I strongly recommend watching it. Not only does it get you thinking but is a good laugh as well. He talks about how a modern teaching society is constraining creativity and how higher qualifications are becoming main stream and losing their value.