Do you tidy up at the end of a beach party? Are you happy to walk away from the embers of a beach barbeque, ignoring the empty drink cans and food wrappers, or do you carefully collect any rubbish that is there and leave the beach as clean, or cleaner, as it was when you arrived? if you hosted a party in a public place and left before the end would you return once it was all over to take down the gazebo and put away the deck chairs?
Of course you would – or you’d ensure that someone else was doing it.
If you saw others having a party, would you barge in and start talking loudly, ignoring everyone else there? Would you leave your rowdy toddler to stampede through others’ conversations, denying any responsibility for him when others gently mention it?
Of course you wouldn’t.
Two things have got me thinking about this. The first is the tragedy of the commons that is happening in the Scottish Highlands, where hordes of thoughtless tourists are defiling the beautiful beaches with litter, and worse. This makes me cry – the Highlands are beautiful, and fragile. They deserve our respect, our love, our care. Some humans suck.
The second is the tweeting of Twitter bots to some hashtags I use. One of these is a cautionary tale for educators. Some time ago, I am told, a class activity for a course was for each student to create a bot. One such bot still tweets, regularly, to the course hashtag. The creator is long gone, nobody takes responsibility for closing it down. When a friend commented that it was wrecking the tag feed, I realised I’d blocked it. There should be a mechanism for removing this digital clutter.
Soon after this conversation, I noticed another bot had tweeted to #CLMOOC. I’d not have thought much about it, but the other bot was on my mind, so I quote tweeted it. The bot owner replied from her personal account: dismissive of our point of view, arrogant, lacking in empathy. Creating the bot had been fun for her. She did not care what others thought – her five minutes of fun trumped everything. (Looking just now I see that it tweets nonsense every hour – random words taken from the owner’s blog. Not funny, or clever – pointless at best.)
Earlier this year I attended the OERxDomains21 conference, where one of the main platforms was Discord – a multi-channelled happening that had been well designed. It made the conference for me, and as the event ended and we all began to wind down, I appreciated being able to dip back in and see what I’d missed. But what I really appreciated was how the organisers returned some time after the event to tidy the space away and leave no trace of mess.
Much of Study Web parallels more adult and professional spaces that have emerged in the last decade—revered influencers, a bend towards materialism, and inspiration over analysis.
Really interesting post, strangely l’ve listened to some of the ‘music’ videos as background in my classroom of much younger learners.
Study Web is the space students have constructed for themselves in response to the irl system that just isn’t working. Unable to find a place or person to turn to with their academic and career anxieties, they find internet strangers—strange kin—to speak to, or simply share the same space with, online. Lacking the intrinsic inspiration to study for hours each day, online advice and group accountability provide a solution. Feeling isolated, virtual study partners create a sense of fellowship.
During lockdown I occasionally gave my class time to complete a short piece of work. Turning off my screen and playing some music, often the lofi type mentioned in the article. I wonder if having longer ‘working together’ sessions would have been helpful? Did anyone else try this sort of thing with primary pupils?
Coincidently one year ago I noted: Our Magic Box A poem written by my class in teams w hen I gave them some 5 minute intervals to write.
Some collaborations keep giving and giving, making me smile and giving me hope. Last year some of us put together a calendar on the theme of hope – pictures we had drawn, photos we had taken, words we had written. I have it printed out and pinned to my study wall, reminding me of my friends, and my collaborative community. This is the image I submitted – a swan with their cygnet looking out over our local pond.
When I saw the call for submissions to the OERxDomains21 conference, I asked Wendy if we might submit something based on this calendar, so we did. That was last week and the recording is here.
As an additional activity, Wendy and I also asked participants to submit words or images to a Google presentation so we could put together a collaborative Zine (see slide 2 for the finished Zine).
I printed a copy out for myself – here it is.
These projects keep me going – they sustain me and remind me of the power of creative playfulness.
Yesterday, as part of the SocMedHE20 conference, we ran a competition to guess where Hamish the Cow was. Hamish was originally knitted by me back in the old world of social contact, before we realised we’d have to run this year’s event online. I remembered him this week, so we devised a plan to photoedit him into a series of images of Glasgow and tweet them out during the day using the hashtags #WheresHamishNoo and #WinHamishTheCoo We had a lot of fun. Maybe you will too.
Today I gave a presentation for the #SocMedHE20 conference. It was a conference with a difference as it was all online – presenters were asked to submit up to 5 tweets which we then scheduled to be tweeted from the conference account. Here’s mine – partly done to nudge myself to write a paper about it (the conference will have a special issue of the Journal of Social Media for Learning). Here’s what I said as a warm up:
My basic idea is that, at least for those of us who practice and share out in the open, learning can be seen as a performance – in a similar way to the thought that teaching is a performance (the sage on the stage). I’ll be using #CLMOOC and #DS106 to illustrate my answer.
I’ve been involved in open learning for several years now. It started almost by accident, when some guy called Dave ran a crazy learning experience that we called rhizo14, carried on serendipitously into a sister experience called CLMOOC, and gradually became a part of my daily ritual as I started participating in Daily Creates. Much of what happens in these open, online experiences can appear to be random and unstructured, but beneath and behind them is a set of core principles and values and a tried and tested design. Those can be broadly summed up as belonging to an educational framework called connected learning. That’s helped me to learn some tricks to help all of us (staff and students) to teach and learn online. They’re at the end of this post, for those wanting to skip straight to the punchline.
Connected learning is a work in progress. It begins from an (intuitively plausible, I think) set of beliefs in the value of learning that is interest-driven, peer-supported and academically relevant, and harnesses the power of social media in order to make these types of learning better integrated into learners’ lives while attempting to make it accessible to anyone who wants to participate (equity is a core value). As such, it is platform and technology agnostic, although the values of open education are central to what practitioners do.
At the heart of connected learning is the thought that we live, nowadays, in a participatory culture. Sometimes people describe this as “Web 2.0”, but participatory culture is actually a richer concept than that. Henry Jenkins contrasts the concept of “interactivity”, which he describes as a relationship between a customer and a software company and a property of some social media platforms, and “participation” which is a relationship between people (which can be facilitated by use of social media). This means that we can’t take student engagement for granted, we have to explicitly design it into our courses. For those familiar with the terminology, I might use this distinction to explain the differences between xMOOCs and cMOOCs. I say this to note a difference, and not to imply that cMOOCs are always superior – knowledge acquisition and participation in learning are not, imo, contradictory concepts – each has its place. Anna Sfard makes this point better than I could.
To an outsider, learning in the open can look unstructured and random, and those new to this type of learning and teaching can feel overwhelmed, out of their depth, unsure of their own abilities, frustrated, scared or even angry. This goes for both learners (often called participants) and educators (often called facilitators). This is why it is so important to design these experiences carefully, and to think carefully about the types of support that can be provided. I think, in the interesting times that lie ahead of us, we are all going to need all the support we can get – both to keep ourselves going, and to help our learners. Teaching and learning online can be an isolated experience, as those of us who do it know only too well.
So how can all of this help us now? First of all I should stress that I’m not suggesting that everybody immediately abandons whatever they are doing and redesign their courses so that they are connected learning experiences – I’m not trying to make more work for anyone. What I am going to tell you about is some tried and tested strategies that have helped the community that I am a part of to emerge and continue. I’m not pretending to have invented any of these strategies either – just to have used or experienced them for myself.
Remember that your learners will be in many different time zones, some of which will have better connectivity than others. People who can’t participate are likely to feel very left out and uncared for. Think about asynchronous activities as well as synchronous ones.
Some learners will have state of the art technology, others … won’t. Think about designing activities/resources that can load on different devices.
Realise that there is no such thing as a digital native: some (staff and students) will find it easy to adapt to this new way of teaching and learning others … won’t. We can’t predict who will and won’t adapt. Think about how to support staff and students who just can’t work out how to log in/submit/engage.
Don’t rely on one platform or one mode of delivery. Systems could be overloaded, or not available for a particular device, or not available in a geographical area (YouTube content, for example, can be restricted by geographical area). Yes, this could mean duplicating important content/messages in order to ensure that everyone who needs can access them.
Don’t force anyone to use a particular platform (other than official, institutionally supported ones). Your students might well have ethical objections to using a particular one. Respect those. Never require anyone to sign up to a (non-institutionally supported/“official”) platform in order to participate. Data rights are human rights.
Tap into the altruism of others. Nurture a community that helps each other (both staff and students). Model this yourself, watch for others doing it and publicly thank them. Think about the types of roles that might be needed to build a learning community: as well as you (the teacher), you might look for particularly active and/or knowledgeable students to become mentors.
Structure informal activities that people can engage in if they want. These don’t have to take a lot of time to design – you might ask students to share something unique about where they are living, to tell others about their hobbies, pets, or family. You could ask them to do this by sharing a small image, a link to a website, or a forum post. These help participants to feel that they belong and can build a sense of community over time.
And, finally, reach out to others around you. Use your networks and don’t be afraid of saying that you are finding something hard. My initial experiences of all of this was a baptism of fire. Those who watch me nowadays often think that I always find it easy to participate, and have always found it easy, but that’s not true. In fact, I nearly dropped out of an early connected learning experience (CLMOOC 2015) because I was feeling lost, confused and overwhelmed. What happened next was, I realise, due to the carefully designed support structure that was in place. I shouted out into the void and someone answered. The rest, as they say, is history.
Were were you six years ago? When I asked myself that question earlier this week I realised that I was participating in the first week of rhizo14
So much has happened since then – so much that I don’t know where to start. I tried to remember who I met for the first time then and put tagged some people in a tweet:
Kevin suggested that we all write something to mark the occasion:
So here’s an open invitation – to anyone who wants – let’s have a rhizo reunion. Let us know what you’ve done since rhizo14, or 15, or whenever it was that you first encountered this networked learning that we do. Tag it #rhizo, if you like, and share it with us.