Final reflection

The course has come to an end. These 7 weeks have passed very fast. We have spent quite some time on thinking, reading, analysing, reflecting…Hopefully all of you have found something from this course to take with you…something, which is useful for your future activities.

I would have wanted to read more of your final thoughts, but it seems that most of you are busy moving back to your home countries. However, I recommend you to have a look at Lucy’s mind map about what was before and how she understands it now or Erkan’s and Cristina’s views on learning and teaching in the 21st century. They all have found a different perspective to take.

Thank you very much for participating! I very much enjoyed reading your thoughts and it was a great pleasure to work with you! It was an interesting and valuable experience also for me, which would have not been possible without your contributions.

All the best!

I am going to contact you via e-mail regarding the final grade.

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Presenting acquired competencies through e-portfolio

Thank you…
…Lucia, Lucy, Erkan, Cristina, Laura, Natalie, Hakan and Semra for sharing your reflections on competencies, which you acquired while being an Erasmus student in Linz. I like them very much, especially your thoughts about other, transferrable competencies beyond the subject-matter knowledge. It seems that these few months have given you a lot. You are better at German and English language, not even talking about body language; you are better at teaching in terms of preparing and organising lessons, setting up goals and understanding learners, etc.; you are better at understanding different cultures and their influence on your own development; you are more self-confident, aware of yourself and independent with changed values, attitudes and prejudices. Just great!

Presenting one’s e-portfolio, it might not be enough to just name different competencies, but it is crucial to think of evidence as well. Natalie, for instance, has tried to explain what evidence as activities she imagines to show in her e-portfolio while presenting her personal growth. This might be most challenging task while creating one’s e-portfolio i.e. what to consider as evidence.

While most of you were presenting a list of competencies, Erkan actually provides a first draft of his potential e-portfolio “architecture” with some detailed description. This is a nice basis to continue and perhaps his idea is not bad at all: “I think that one of the things that I will do for my future education and career would be having a E-portfolio.” Because you probably experience something similar as Laura did: “Reflecting on all this I’ve realized that I have learned more than I thought during these five months and I am really proud of it”.

Didn’t you experience that creating one’s own e-portfolio is also a sort of reflection exercise, which gives you some insights of where you are and in which direction you want to grow…

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Wrapping up the course

While I am waiting for some more inputs regarding the topic “competencies and e-porftolio” let’s move on with the last task of this course.

With this short period we have tried to get a general overview of some of the important concepts, which currently influence learning and teaching and probably direct our future activities in this regard. We have read some literature (everybody knows how much effort she/he has actually put on that), analysed our own learning and got some ideas from each other.

As a last effort, let’s think back to this course, the concepts, the trends, the discussions…
Create a concept/mind map, which reflects on your own understanding of the situation “learning and teaching in the 21st century” and put it on your personal weblog (either a link or as a photo or…). You can freely choose your preferred concept mapping tool or try out something new. There are a number of concept/mind mapping tools available. Perhaps this can be seen as another opportunity to get familiar with yet another Web2.0 tool. Quite popular are for instance Cmap tool, bubble, coggle, etc.

In addition, please put out a short weblog post about your personal reflections. What have you actually acquired and learned in this course? Are you now more knowledgeable? In what sense? What is it you take away from this course?

I hope to see your final reflections by Sunday, 16th of June.

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Looking back at drawbacks and benefits of open learning

Let’s look back at the concept of open learning for a moment. I noticed that your thoughts around open learning are not that much tied to literature and thus, I can see that in your understanding open learning is very often understood as an online learning or distance learning. I would argue against that with the help of Cristina, who has nicely pointed out that “I had experience in on-line and distance learning, but actually their basis wasn’t supported in open learning“. She continues “open learning isn’t a new concept in the educational world, but a new way of thinking has appeared in relation to this learning vision because of the potentiality and development of technologies“.
This is exactly what I want to get across here. It is similar to a PLE (personal learning environment) concept, it is not that much of doing everything online supported by Web2.0 tools and services, but a different way of thinking about learning and teaching… As Cristina has said “…even if technological changes are promoting an easy way to exchange knowledge and experiences flexibly, cultural changes are the reason of this open pedagogical conception“.
Based on her experiences Lucy rightfully points out that sharing has been there for quite some time, but “unofficial” and random ways.

I tried to pull out some benefits of open learning from your posts:
+ provides greater flexibility for scheduling learning (what, when, how)
+ gives the opportunity to develop technology competencies for instructors and learners
+ creates conditions for social learning
+ helps to create technological understanding
+ provides wide range of tools and materials
+ supports interaction
+ promotes self-directed learners
+ promotes foreign language learning (in some cases)
+ creates sense of responsibility
+ provides autonomy
+ develops thinking skills

And some drawbacks:
- learners do not have enough motivation or initiative to follow the chosen course
- quality of learning questionable as it depends only on learner’s choice
- no face-to-face meetings don’t allow to see a teacher
- disadvantageous in developing oral and social learning skills

Let’s think about now how much “openness” (what ever you mean by this in our context) is actually needed to create learning experiences, which provide the aforementioned benefits and drawbacks…

I want to conclude here with Natalie’s words “I would argue that for open learning to be successful,there must first be strong networks created, whereby learners can support each other through the process“. Have you managed to create a strong network among yourselves?

Thank you very much for those few who shared their thoughts and ideas! Where are the others?

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Competencies & e-portfolio

As a last topic of this course we are going to explore e-portfolios and their role as an assessment tool for one’s acquired competencies. In recent years educators have started to talk about the paradigm shift i.e. from what shall be learned? to what should students be able to do?, which requires reorganisation of performance assessment and examination.

The term ‘competence’ is, however, often used in a somewhat inflationary, overly broad and very fuzzy manner, but in general ‘competence’ refers to a human potentiality for action in a range of challenging situations. I quite like the way Erpenbeck and Heyse (1999) have conceptualised this term: A competent person is an individual who has acquired factual knowledge and a set of procedural skills in a certain area, but in addition also holds orientations, values and attitudes for coping with open-ended and complex problem situations. A competence, referring to a human potentiality, cannot directly be observed. It has to be inferred from the observation (or self-observation) of a given performance. This performance needs to be somehow documented to make acquired competencies visible and assessable as well. If we, as learners, take control and responsibility for our learning experiences, become more self-directed individuals and design our learning environments according to our needs, then we can’t really talk about a formal knowledge testing anymore, but rather find ways to prove our growth and a set of additionally acquired dispositions. Sometimes it is called a competency-based learning.

While “portfolios…are always a goal driven, organized collection of items (artefacts) that demonstrate a learner’s expansion of knowledge and skills over time” (Walti, 2004, p. 157), in some cases we can also demonstrate our knowledge and skills in a digital format. Some educators interpret e-portfolios as a new dynamic CV, which consists of one’s life work and learning experiences.
IMS e-portfolio specification distinguishes 6 different types of e-portfolios, which all have a slightly different purpose:
- assessment portfolio
- presentation portfolio
- learning portfolio
- personal development portfolio
- multiple owner portfolio
- working portfolio

You can use basically any networked tools and services to create your e-portfolio, for instance a weblog with some static pages, links to your works, etc. but there are also some specific software solutions:
Open and free
- OSPI The Open Source Portfolio Initiative
- Elgg
- Mahara
Commercial
- iWebfolio
- PebblePad
- myefolio
and
15 efficient e-portfolio tools

Sometimes e-portfolio is also called as a personal learning environment, however, I am not very eager to follow this line of thought. I can still see an e-portfolio as a collection of my best works, proofs of my growth and development.

So, this week I propose to do the following…
…familiarise yourself with the literature related to this week’s concepts (e-portfolio, competencies). I have added a few potential articles to the ‘Material’ page, but as usual feel free to choose your own articles and books to study;
…imagine a situation: you have spent some time in Linz studying and now you have to go back to your home university. Your home university is interested in getting an overview of how you have grown, in what direction, what additional competencies (knowledge, skills, attitudes, etc.; they can be subject-related or transferrable general skills) have you acquired while being in Linz. Your task is to prove that with your e-portfolio and you have two options here:
(a) If you have time and you are interested in trying out new tools you can create a mini e-portfolio using whatever tools you want to (special e-portfolio software, simple website, etc.).

(b) If playing yet another tool is too much right now, put out a Weblog post in your personal Weblog and describe your e-portfolio concept/prototype related to your studies in Linz.

…and of course you are very welcome to continue with the discussions in our forum.

Let’s try to get it done by June 9th.

References:
Erpenbeck, J., & Heyse, V. (1999). Kompetenzbiographie – kompetenzmilieu -kompetenztransfer
(No. 62). Berlin: Arbeitsgemeinschaft Betriebliche Weiterbildungsforschung, e.V.

Walti, C. (2004). Implementing web-based portfolios and learning journals. In J. E. Brindley, C. Wälti, & O. Zawacki-Richter (Eds.), Learner support in open, online and distance learning environments (pp. 157-168). Oldenburg: Bibliotheks- und Informationssystem der Universität Oldenburg.

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A glimpse at personal learning environments

I was impressed by your personal learning environments. Dominating technological components in your PLEs demonstrate that you have taken a rather technological approach to PLE. Lucie and Semra made an effort to group their components, thus providing a better overview of what is the actual purpose for using every tool and service they mentioned. I found also interesting Laura‘s idea to reflect on changes in pedagogical approaches and Hakan‘s scheme, which tries to capture the change of learning environments, present tools and services according to main learning activities and place himself in the middle of it.

I collected all the components of your personal learning environments and made a cloud. This time I used a service called tagxedo, which offers much more customisation options (in comparison to tagcrowd what I used last time). I recommend to play with it.

cloud

To compare the list of tools and services you mentioned as part of your personal learning environment, I present here again the cloud, which was formed in the beginning of the course based on your personal experiences with Webpublishing. What a progress! :).

 

Screen shot 2013-05-12 at 11.02.39 AM

Although some of the components of your personal learning environments are obligatory (all the course related web-based tools and services), we can still interpret this growth (regarding web-based tools and services) as your own initiative to use web-based tools and services to support your learning activities.  This is a sign of taking control and responsibility for one’s own learning activities.

And I strongly recommend to go through other participants’ PLEs, because you might find many interesting web-based tools and services not known to you. At least I found a few, which I definitely want to try out myself and test whether I find them useful for my learning and work.

Well done!

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Open learning, networking and sharing

Sharing, networking, openness are the next keywords we are going to spend some time on in this course. Participating in this course, you can already see some signs of open learning, possibilities for networking and sharing resources. We have our weblogs, which can be used as a resource for learning, get some ideas and inspiration, take other’s ideas and develop them further. We have a forum to share our thoughts, arguments i.e. to build new knowledge.

Networked tools and services (social software) are inherently open and social allowing to create cultures, which are built on assumptions that individuals open up their content and created artifacts and share them with others. In the context of learning we need to emphasise social nature of knowledge construction as it is progressively more constructed and co-developed with peers and facilitators through conversations and interactions. But successful co-construction of knowledge presupposes open sharing of information and systematic support of that sharing (Cambridge, 2008). Like we try to do it here. Don’t you think that educational episodes should be increasingly designed for openness and sharing? We need to consider moving beyond our institutional boundaries, making the processes of teaching and learning visible, and more apparent as work in progress (Batson et al., 2008). Being part of various networks and communities, they actually support participants to learn in order to belong, while they invite them to belong in order to learn.

However, openness has many meanings in this context. We can talk about open educational resources (OER) and open courses, which are available for everybody, we can talk about open software tools, etc. And if they are open, one can also share them, reuse them or modify if needed.

Under the ‘Material’ page of this weblog you can find a list of articles related to networking, sharing and openness. I have also added a few pdf’s to our common Dropbox folder.

The task for this week is the following:
- familiarise yourself with the literature related to this week’s concepts. Make use of the articles in our Dropbox or get ideas from the ‘Material’ page or find some yourself related to this week’s keywords.
- Pull out from your literature review one provoking (at least for you) aspect/question/confusion/thought and present it in our forum for the others to comment and reply. Comment and reply yourself at least to one of these provoking aspects/questions in our forum.
- Put out a short weblog post where you describe your experiences with open learning (if any). What was challenging in this experience? Why? What aspects of this learning experience did you like and didn’t like? Why? What kind of role did your ‘learning network’ play in this?
In case you don’t have any open learning experience, think of an open learning situation and provide some arguments for and against open learning. What are the possible problems and benefits of open learning?

Let’s try to finish this task by Sunday, June 2nd.

I’ll take a nice cup of tea now and start to explore more closely your personal learning environments :)

References:

Batson, T., Paharia, N. & Kumar, M.S.V. (2008). A harvest too large? A framework for educational abundance. In T. Iiyoshi & M.S.V. Kumar (Eds.), Opening Up Education. The Collective Advancement of Education Through Open Technology, Open Content, and Open Knowledge (pp. 89-104). London: The MIT Press.

Cambridge, B. (2008). Scaffolding for systemic change. In T. Iiyoshi & M.S.V. Kumar (Eds.), Opening Up Education. The Collective Advancement of Education Through Open Technology, Open Content, and Open Knowledge (pp. 357-374 ). London: The MIT Press.

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I am…

…glad that some of you have started to be active in our forum. A good job! But I very strongly encourage the rest of the group to jump in too. Don’t be shy and let’s share our wisdom! The more opinions and ideas we have, the richer will be our learning experience…for all of us. As I told you in our first videoconference I am not the only person who could/should give you feedback. I am just one of us and therefore, it makes a lot of sense to follow your peers’ weblogs and perhaps provide comments, to follow forum discussions and argue, critique, comment, support, encourage, share, etc. This is where our learning is happening! For a person who has initiated a discussion or who has provided his/her thoughts, it is sometimes enough not to feel alone if there is another person who for example says only: ‘yes, you are right, I totally agree with you…’

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Ideas for learning projects

I had a pleasant reading about your potential learning projects. Fantastic ideas! For instance, how to decorate wedding cakes and make a ‘Linzer torte’, how to be healthy, how to provide first aid, how to use sign language etc. I got myself interested in some of your ‘ĺearning project ideas’.

The level of detail of these “contracts” varied a lot, but I know from my own experience and from others that this is not an easy task at all if we are not used to do that i.e. to think of our own learning and how we actually learn.

What do you think, was it challenging to write down a ‘plan’ (contract) for your learning project? Did you know exactly how to go about your chosen project or did you have to think hard and analyse your study habits? Did you have a clear idea what supporting strategies, people, etc. to use? Did you all realise that your contracts consisted of a list of Web2.0 tools and services?
For example, Erkan makes use of videos and websites with puzzles, games, interactive tasks for studying German; Cristina mentions in general some Web2.0 tools and services for sign learning; Ashlene wants to find free online lessons for learning how to play a guitar; Lucy for instance hopes to make use of cooking weblogs, flickr photos for inspiration and various services, which provide converting the ingredients into the format she knows; or Susan can watch youtube for extra sign language practise; and many others. It doesn’t make sense to name all them here, thus, I strongly recommend to have a look at your peers’ weblogs and follow their progress. Web is full of various dedicated weblogs (for instance for cooking), instructions for language learners or hints for photographers… Can you imagine nowadays carrying out the same project successfully without any technological support?

I liked very much your approaches (some of yours) to actually sign up for official courses (as a strategy) to fulfill your objectives. Being a self-directed(regulated) learner doesn’t mean at all that you have to do everything informally, alone, without any structures around. To the contrary, this might show that you are aware of your capabilities, limitations and resources, and in this particular case it is the most reasonable way to go (to take a structured course with a facilitator).

Based on my experiences I have noticed that the most difficult part is to come up with the right evaluation criteria. How do I know that I have actually achieved my objectives? What are the criteria to take as a reference? Lucy with the Linzer torte can ask others opinion…if they actually like it and I guess it is a fair criteria for cooking, or Susan’s criteria for sign language is that the other person actually understands her. On the other hand, to have an objective ‘to stay healthy’ makes it rather challenging to come up with concrete evaluation criteria. When should we draw a line that we are now happy, we have a mindful body, etc?

For learning purposes perhaps it makes more sense to think of criteria, which can be really measured. And as learning contracts are for planning your own learning and thinking of how one learns, strategies in that contract refer to your ways of going about learning to achieve your goals. These strategies should be your learning strategies, not the strategies of the topic of your learning…

I think it is important to take your learning contract from time to time, look at it, analyse your learning, reflect on your success and mistakes; and revise your contract to continue with your project. Of course this iterative process can continue forever, but sometimes it encourages you to continue if you understand where and why you lost your motivation.

As our course is too short and perhaps still too structured to write down a course related learning contract and carry it out properly with revisions, analysis and elaborations, the idea was to practice its general procedure and to show that this can be a reasonable way to create basis for learning conversations with your peers or a facilitator.

Related to the topic…
Last week I had a chance to visit one math lesson in a primary school. As I haven’t been involved in teaching in a primary and secondary school for almost 10 years, I am not very familiar with every detail in there. I was amazed by the practice, which had been implemented there since these kids started their school years (currently they are in the third grade). From the beginning they have been taught how to analyse and reflect on their own learning. This particular class I visited with my colleagues just had an important math test and now the kids were asked to analyse their mistakes, reflect on what went wrong and why, but also evaluate what she/he is good at and what aspects need more practice. This is the first step towards this practice where we pay also more attention to ourselves as evaluators of our own learning…this is exactly what we are talking about here…these types of changes…

Thanks a lot for your contributions!

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For this week…

…the actual task is the following:
- familiarise yourself with a concept of ‘personal learning environment’ and initiate at least one topic (question, thought, dilemma, etc.) in our forum related to PLE or reply to a topic initiated by someone else;
- familiarise yourself with a concept of ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) and initiate at least one topic (question, thought, dilemma, etc.) in our forum related to BYOD or reply to a topic initiated by someone else;
- think of this course as one of your learning projects and describe its learning environment (as your personal learning environment) in your weblog. It can be in the form of text, video, photos, drawing, scheme, or a combination of them, etc. If your environment consists of technology (it actually should :) ), please be specific about the software you use (don’t mention just a computer and internet as it provides hardly any insights of the technological part in your environment).

Deadline: Sunday May 26th

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