Week 11 – ONL191 in the rear mirror

What are the most important things that you have learnt through your engagement in the ONL course? Why?

During the course, I have developed towards being more patient and more open. During the first frustrating weeks, I needed to cope with the situation that the course experience had not launched as I envisioned (I had so many other things to do, I found some of the first meetings chaotic and hectic, I felt there were lots of expectations towards me but I felt I lacked support, etc. – see my post on Week 2). I needed to decide whether I wanted this course or not, and why. Finally, I decided I stay because the topics looked interesting to me and I started feeling good in my PBL group.

I have also developed my interaction skills in a new group. Building collaboration with randomly grouped new people, and meeting them only virtually has been quite an exceptional experience to me. I think Zoom and WhatsApp worked very well as means of communication, I have enjoyed being part of this group. I will miss my PBL members, I think 🙂

Obviously, I have developed in using some digital tools, and I have extended and systematized my theoretical and practical knowledge, as I targeted. Concerning technical tools, there was not much completely new to me: I have seen Prezis in several conferences, my students submit assignments which are created in Coggle, so maybe only iCloud Keynote was the only tool I had no idea about before (see our submission on Topic 1).

I felt the most enthusiastic about our Prezi on Openness and Sharing (and, mysteriously, I happened to have quite a lot of time to work on that…). I read a lot of pieces of literature and built quite complex ideas concerning opening up a closed course which is one of my work challenges at the moment (you can read my related post here). With my colleagues, I will also present the topic at a conference on teacher education (title of our poster: Everyday Creativity: Lessons Learnt from Transforming an In-Service Teacher Education Course to Open Educational Resource, authors: Tamás Péter Szabó, Gomathy Soundararaj and Tea Kangasvieri), so the course has also contributed to my academic research.

I also found it very useful to elaborate on the practical challenges and some solutions of collaboration. I worked especially on the subtopic of forming groups because that’s what I feel the most challenging in my everyday teaching, especially if I work with groups of exchange students where fluctuation of members is pretty fast. I think our PBL Coggle presentation is a good one as it summarizes main entry point from which to think about collaboration. Coggle has not been the most perfect tool, though, especially not the free version which has some shortcomings in visualizing data. However, we still decided to use the same tool for our Topic 4 presentation as well, which was about design principles and good practices of online and blended learning. I especially learnt a lot about supporting purposeful inquiry and tutoring groups to reach resolution of the problem they are working on (see my post on the topic).

 

How will your learning influence your practice?

I think my online and blended teaching practices will be more diverse. I got some hints and tricks from the literature and from group discussions, and will try them out (e.g. I’ll organize virtual office hours and, in general, will emphasize more that I’m available for students outside of the f2f meeting hours as well).

With the help of reflection, I also feel that some of my practices got confirmed; e.g. the importance of organizing online discussions and combined online & f2f reading circles. I think I will search for more information in professional blogs and initiate even more conversation with my colleagues about practicalities and online work organization issues. Usually we speak about content and organizing the f2f sessions, but not much about digital presence or diverse tasks in the learning platform. This semester, I have used my lunch breaks for PBL meetings (thanks to the flexibility and high quality of Zoom mobile app!), and I found the conversations quite inspiring. I think I could invite more colleagues to f2f lunches as well to discuss such issues. There is also a digital tutor service at our university, but I’ve never contacted them. Maybe it’s time to do so!

 

What are your thoughts about using technology to enhance learning/teaching in your own context?

Well, I’ve written a lot about it in my blog , the most explicitly maybe on Week 3 and Week 4. I think digital technologies are important, we need them, it’s our reality to use them as much as possible, they make it possible to bridge huge geographical distances and make asynchronous work easier, so they in general enhance flexibility. However, I have sensed an uncritical celebration of digital tools from which I’d refrain:

Quite often, it is taken for granted that we need to use IT wherever and whenever to transform interaction but interaction can actually follow quite similar patterns with or without technology, as my own research also shows. I think IT tools provide certain good opportunities but we shouldn’t rely on them too much or blindly. I quite often use ‘offline’ discussions and crafting (gluing, cutting, drawing, etc.) in my university teaching because I found embodied multi-sensory learning can be enhanced by such methods as well. (Quote from my post on Week 3)

In my context (language education), I mainly use digital technology to enhance reading assignments (e.g. reading circles). I also present digital tools to students who then prepare videos and digital stories to summarize their group projects. Collaborative working platforms such as Google services are chosen nowadays rather spontaneously by students.

 

What are you going to do as a result of your involvement in ONL? Why?

I will spread the word, so I’ll encourage colleagues to take part in ONL. In our PBL, we also discussed that we could still run our WhatsApp group after the termination of this course to exchange ideas. I’m also considering joining the ONL Alumni group to maintain connections with the community, and gain inspiration. Further, as I presented above, I’ll more intensively discuss questions of digital pedagogy at my university and in my professional networks.

 

What suggestions do you have (activities and/or in general) for development of eLearning in your own teaching or context?

If we receive funding, my colleagues and I would work on a new Erasmus+ project enhancing virtual exchange. It means that students take courses partner universities, but they don’t travel there. It saves time, money, and it is also more environment friendly (lower carbon footprint of education). In the planned project, I’d be part of a working group thinking about how such an exchange would become multilingual (i.e., not English only) and what contents & activities could be developed for language education.

Another option is to join an initiative of my colleague Judit Háhn, who is a specialist in using video conferencing in education, which has a good potential e.g. in language education as well as in promoting intercultural dialogue. Actually, it was Judit who first encouraged me to pre-register to ONL, so thank you, Judit! 🙂

Since I work on the topic of interaction in various (physical) learning environments, I’m interested in virtual collaboration between schools where students could make representations of learning environments (e.g. with 360 degree cameras) and could invite students from other schools to explore such environments (e.g. with VR glasses), and reflect on them. I could use such practices in my Learning environments enhancing student-involving interaction course which has been quite popular and well attended by students from various countries and continents. The course applies a comparative angle (we compare school environments from various education systems and environments created for different age groups and study subjects), so student-made digital representations would open up new possibilities for discussion. Now we read papers and students present photos and report on learning environments in their home countries, but this digital or virtual extension would add an interesting layer of experience.

Most likely further ideas will come to my mind, but I think these three would already keep me quite busy on top of other tasks I have 🙂

Thank you, ONL191 team and PBL13 for an inspiring learning experience!

 

Week 10 – Good practices and main principles of online and blended learning

In our PBL assignment, we collected good practices and main principles of online and blended learning. I enjoyed having conversations with my group mates, and I also found it quite exciting to reflect on my own practice and link theory and practice together. As theory, we built on seven principles from the book Teaching in blended learning environments. The page numbers below refer to this book.

I elaborated on two subtopics: Support purposeful inquiry and Ensure that inquiry moves into resolution. I think these fit together quite nicely. Since our group submission is quite condensed, I add my detailed text below. This text was my main contribution to our PBL conversations.

 

Support purposeful inquiry

  • Encourage students to be driven by own interests and relevant challenges, e.g. by forming groups to work to study cases or phenomena which are relevant to their (future) working contexts. Students organize themselves to working groups of c. 3–5 persons and deliver small-scale projects. The projects should relate to the course topic, of course, and to their own life realities (relevant challenges, phenomena, own interests, etc.) – this makes learning more meaningful. Purposefulness also means that students define their aims/goals with the small-scale projects so they can formulate their questions and define their methods and tools of investigation. Finally, students get answers to their relevant questions. – There can be a list of potential topics (or topics from previous courses) for inspiration but we can encourage students to deviate from such lists. – My own practice: students get informed about the main, general topics of the course in the first f2f meeting + online (syllabus), then they write posts about their interests and learning goals (very briefly so that peers really have time to read others’ posts). They post in time so everybody can read and comment on others’ posts. I as teacher also read the posts and make notes to facilitate group formation – but I don’t present my notes only if I see the group has difficulties with establishing groups. In general, small project groups are formed in a f2f workshop quite efficiently and quickly because students know others’ interests and in the f2f workshop they purposefully search for coursemates whose interests seem to be close to theirs.
  • Track the development of the group projects through tasks, discussions and reflection to make students recognize how their learning proceeds. It is a good idea to apply sub-tasks (milestone tasks, if you like) to help students working with course materials and with their own projects. Group discussions can go online or in the f2f meetings. It is important to gather the ideas of such discussions, e.g. on posters (f2f workshops – photos on posters can be posted online) and discussion areas (online). It is important that the teacher follows students’ posts and builds on them when discussing course content (e.g. in short lectures, instructions, intro to group discussion, posts in the learning platform, etc.) so that (i) students see that their work is acknowledged and used, and (ii) they get feedback and support for their own individual learning and their group projects. – My own practice: I organize learning circles to discuss course literature in f2f meetings. Discussion can continue in the learning platform. Also I ask students to post a critical presentation of a piece of literature which supports their group projects. Also group projects are shared with the whole community in the form of online posts and f2f presentations. It is important that throughout the whole process, students discuss literature with and write assignments to a real, wider audience (their teacher + peers), and that group projects are discussed continuously from ealy on, so that students understand where their investigation is heading. As result of discussions, students often change their project topics to various extent, so discussions help them realize what would be really important, useful and meaningful to themselves and to their peers. Sure, teacher feedback also helps them in deciding which directions to take.

 

Ensure that inquiry moves into resolution

  • “Make the cognitive progression explicit. Assist students through layered activities that build on each other through triggering events, exploration, and integration, to resolution.” (p. 58) – My practice: I regularly ask students to report on how their work proceeds, what they need still to go, what the limitations are, etc. When carrying out a project, is is important to know (i) what they already know/can apply, (ii) what they still need to know to reach their goal (e.g. answer research questions), (iii) and what they’ll never be able to answer with their project (because of the limitations of the methods)
  • “Teach committed relativism; have students take a position and defend it, knowing that there are multiple perspectives and layers of authoritative knowledge (Perry, 1981)” (p. 58). – My practice: with my students in the Language Aware Multilingual Pedagogy program, we take different entry points to language to study the same phenomenon in different ways, recognizing the benefits and limitations of certain approaches (see my co-authored paper). Doing so, they understand better what they resolve and what they leave unresolved/untouched in their work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 9 – Designing online and blended courses

This topic was one of the most interesting and most relevant to me since I always need to organize blended courses in practice (because of the extremely low number of contact teaching hours at our university). In this blog, I reflect on the teaching materials and forms of learning used in this unit.

I’m glad I had the chance to look into the book Teaching in blended learning environments. Well, it was much more than ‘looking into’, actually: I read some of the chapters and collected good hints from the book. In teaching, there are so many situations which recur all the time, e.g. presenting yourself to the group, organizing group discussions, reading circles, facilitating project work, etc. – so it’s good to get new ideas and practical solutions to maintain diversity in teaching. Especially if some students come to three of my courses in parallel (which is not rare), it’s good if they don’t get bored and say ‘ya, we keep doing the same stuff with this guy’.

I also think that the idea of emotions was a perfect choice. My emotions and students’ emotions are very important factors, and it’s also relevant what kind of atmosphere there is in the teacher team which develops the course.

I found the intro video on the Padlet page informative but pretty static and monotonous. However, it was interesting to answer the questions in Padlet; the task made me think about practicalities, for example the relevance of organizing virtual office hours for students to ask or share ideas.

For the first time ever, I participated in the Tweetchat even though first I was pretty critical and wanted to omit that. I think it was a good idea to join, the questions were thought-provoking and practical enough to generate useful dialogue. I think it is a good sign that people dared to be critical and shared counter-arguments quite freely. And how fun that the conversation is now available so one can search for ideas from it!

The CoI questionnaire was OK, but I find it ironic that we needed to calculate our scores with pen and pencil, with the help of a (pdf) print version of our answers and a static table. I know from practice (from our Erasmus+ in-service teacher training Everyday Creativity) that making an online questionnaire where scores are calculated and feedback is given automatically is not rocket science… Watching the recording of the webinar, it turned out that others also found the task of calculating scores quite difficult.

Arriving to the webinar, I must say I was slightly disappointed. The content was OK, I especially found interesting the ideas about the role of language and embodiment in interaction. Further, the idea that there are no negative emotions was quite strong and made me think about being fair and open even when not everything is as ideal as we’d wish. In brief, I learnt that ‘everything is good form something’, even moments when things go downhill. My critique mainly concerns interaction during the webinar. First, the pace was quite slow. I would also avoid asking random people (using teacher power) if there’s no volunteer to answer a question. If nobody answers a question, there can be several reasons in the background: the question is not clear, is not motivating or relevant to the students, is not asked in the correct moment (students are not yet prepared to answer it), etc. It doesn’t help if one forces answers randomly because answers might easily be irrelevant. In the case of this very webinar, I wouldn’t say that the answer was irrelevant, though, but rather it pointed to challenges with the tasks and the content of the webinar.

 

Week 8 – Collaborating on Collaboration

It has been fascinating to see in the past weeks how quickly our PBL has become a well-functioning group. I think the challenges at the beginning also helped to realize that people actually need time and so much more to start forming a collaborative group rather than a random bunch of persons.

I’m quite pleased with our Coggle presentation which summarizes how groups work collaboratively. I mainly contributed to the Forming part because this was closest to the everyday challenges I face in f2f and digital learning environments. Below I summarize some main points with reflections on ONL191. I collected my experiences and did not follow any piece of literature but I think these thoughts are present in several publications and/or guidelines.

  • Appropriateness: the task should be challenging and complex enough to offer it for collaboration. – I think my main problem with Topic 1 was that I didn’t find it interesting enough to really put effort to working on it. Topic 2 was fantastic as it opened new pathways of thinking to me, and it became the basis of a future conference presentation. It has really boosted me!
  • Hanging out: people need time to get to know each other. – At the beginning, I was slightly irritated in our PBL meetings because I felt we didn’t talk about the essential things and wasted time on technical issues in quite a roundabout way. Now I realize how important it was to leave time for small talk and be patient when setting dates or deciding on which tool we’d use, etc. Using time generously made the atmosphere comfortable and inclusive.
  • Managing expectations & enhancing ownership and belonging: participants should know what they are asked for / what they signed up for, and they need to be able to influence the nature of the collaborative project to feel ownership and belonging to it. – I had some difficulties at the beginning as I didn’t really know what to expect, and it made me quite upset; I continuously kept considering that I’d leave the course. Luckily I stayed and step by step I understood what and how we work here. Further, I realized I can decide quite independently how I manage my tasks and it also comforted me.
  • Agreeing on channels of communication: in online environments, it is especially important that communication channels are known and used by all members. – It’s been interesting to follow how our communication channels changed. First we used the PBL13 site of this website quite a lot, and there were some e-mails here and there. I thought I’d prefer e-mail because I got used to control the main stream of my professional communication in e-mails. Step by step, we switched to WhatsApp totally, and now everything goes there. It’s been relieving that I don’t need to check two-three channels but get everything in one thread.
  • Scheduling: to orchestrate group work, there should be a temporal rhythm in collaboration, and participants should be aware of that beforehand. – First scheduling looked chaotic to me but now we have a good rhythm in the group. Also we are quite flexible, we even cancelled a whole meeting! 🙂
  • Roles: a clear definition of roles is necessary. – It is interesting how we switch between roles: e.g. the facilitators of PBLs remain the same, but topic leaders change continuously. It gives some diversity and excitement to work.

Week 7 – Learning communities

As usual, I could not attend the webinar since I had teaching then. Below I reflect on some questions raised in the webinar.

 

What are the key positives / negatives of online collaboration?

The best part is that I don’t need to travel. It feels so unnecessary to travel a lot to attend meetings: traveling takes a lot of time and it’s usually not environment friendly (especially if I need to fly somewhere). So working in online meetings work can work pretty fine – especially with Zoom which I really like.

Although I personally prefer online meetings to avoid long-distance traveling, I still participate in a project which makes f2f transnational meetings compulsory, so I travel then. Of course f2f meetings have also have their positive sides as the presence of other people, shared walks or meals add a unique layer to working together. Such experiences strengthen cohesion.

I think the best combination is when we meet our international / global partners f2f sometimes (for example at conferences) and work intensively online in-between such meetings.

 

What was your worst / best collaborative experience and why?

Usually I have good experiences since I am surrounded by great colleagues. However, I have also recognized some social loafing in one of the teams I work in, and it is very challenging to handle it, especially because the guy who systematically doesn’t do anything is otherwise a nice person and works a lot in other projects.

I think many times social loafing is a survival strategy in academia: people are forced to take part in as many projects as their boss can imagine (especially if they are not yet tenured so are in a pretty vulnerable position), but of course everybody is overloaded so people simply prioritize their n+1 tasks and if they find their 1000th part-time project less motivating, they just simply abandon it.

 

Do you collaborate or cooperate?

Both – it depends on the task and the situation. I understand that collaboration is something more than cooperation, you get involved much more in joint activities and collaboration is a much more complex structure in which partners are interdependent. Cool. However, not all tasks require such dedication. There are necessary but simple, boring and mechanistic tasks that you can perform with simple collaboration. Typically such task is for example the feeding of various administrative databases of the university. You add your stuff, don’t even look at anybody else’s stuff, and you all maintain a fabulous institutional machinery which, if everything goes well, pays you a salary.

 

What considerations do we need to take when collaborating online?

I’m part of several research teams and we work quite a lot online. We need to be super careful to be in line with GDPR. For example, if we want to discuss data which includes personal information, we can only use the secured channels our university provides to us. Several popular and otherwise well-working online collaborative platforms cannot even be considered.

Week 6 – Closed vs. Open Education

Our group works on its Prezi to discuss “Sharing and Openness”. My part is the investigation of closed vs. open education. Since my quite extensive text would be too long for our presentation, I share it here. First, I summarize the content of some pieces of literature I found useful, and try to place some main features of open and closed education in a table. Further, I try to locate ONL191 along the lines of openness and closedness. Finally, I share my final comments and list my sources.

 

open

 

Open education as emancipation

Weller (2012) provides an overview of the history of Open University in the UK (1969–), emphasizing how important it was to make HE accessible to anybody. According to Weller (2012), only 5% of the age cohort of 18–22 could go to university in the 1960s in the UK, while in 2008–2009 their proportion was 45%… Since the 1960s, the “openness” mantra has spread in academia (Open Source, Open Educational Resources, Open Courses, Open Research, Open Data, Open API, Open Access…), creating the concept of an Open Scholar who is widely visible and approachable (Weller 2012).

Lane (2016) investigates whether open education has been successful in emancipating people. He establishes that

“The phrase “open education” implies that there must also be closed education or education where there are restrictions or a lack of freedoms to exercise this fundamental human right. Legal restrictions are intentional restrictions in that they are purposefully designed to do so. Social and political restrictions can be a mixture of the intended and unintended flowing from the dominant societal structures and relationships and in particular matters of economics (Lane, 2013). For example, the participation rate in higher education in most countries has increased substantially in the past fifty years (OECD, 2015) as more higher education institutions were opened and more places within those institutions made available but this has led to significant debates and different policy responses as to who pays for this expansion of infrastructure and capacity and whether that includes students paying directly through tuition fees or indirectly, with most other citizens, through the taxes they pay; or effectively a mix of both through income contingent loans.”

Further, he adds:

“While, in principle, open education in its various guises can help people benefit from learning who may not have otherwise had the opportunity, in practice it may not be doing much more to emancipate people than closed education is doing. This is because prevailing social, cultural and economic norms still place greater value on education arising through the existing physical, political and legal infrastructures.”

These sources illuminate that Open Education is embedded into historical contexts and trends of academia. Open education as a concept has been around for c. 50 years now and, as the case of Open University in the UK (Weller 2012) shows, it was not originally linked to digital technologies since Open University first distributed books and other analogous media.

Touching on the quality of pedagogy in digital open educational resources, Weller (2012) distinguishes between different types of OERs: big OER (institutionally produced and quality assured) and little OER (created by anyone, quality might be anything between fantastic and useless):

“Big OERs are institutionally generated ones that arise from projects such as Open Courseware and OpenLearn. These are usually of high quality, contain explicit teaching aims, are presented in a uniform style and form part of a time-limited, focused project with portal and associated research and data.

Little OERs are individually produced, low cost resources. They are produced by anyone, not just educators, may not have explicit educational aims, have low production quality and are shared through a range of third party sites and services.”

It seems that openness in education also has a political agenda: a kind of distancing from the idea of authority in education. As the above distinction also highlights, anybody can produce OERs and the learners are considered central to the extent that they wouldn’t need instructors or teachers. A recent dissertation (Clements 2016) however calls attention to the fact that quality assurance is essential anyway: at least peers should do that if external experts are not involved. — even if not external / authority experts but rather peers do that.

 

closed

 

Open education vs. closed education: pedagogical challenges

Meiszner & Squires’ (eds. n.d.) report challenges the widespread notion that open education would inevitably lead to a radical renewal of learning. The report raises the question whether digital media only means a change of platform in some cases:

“6 Real Open Education – or just closed education for free?

A key accusation made against OER sites is that while they provide material for free they do not actually lead to OE. Indeed, some have been attacked for furthering “closed” models of teaching and traditional pedagogies. Khan Academy has been accused of promoting an updated form of rote learning, and creating “joyless test-prep factories” for “drilling and killing” (Thompson, 2011).”

Would then “open” be a form of education where learners work totally individually — saying that there’s no threshold at all, and anybody can get in? In contrast, “closed” education would then be a form of education where people need to get accepted / tutored / supported / instructed by a more experienced / certified / authority person. I find this dichotomy interesting as it brings quite central issues of agency into the picture. That is, this approach to closed vs. open raises the question: who actually teaches and who learns? And who can assess / certify that learning has happened? Vanasupa et al. (2016) also take an action-focused approach when stating that in open education the most important is that, in comparison to closed education, roles and activity types are substantially different:

“By replacing the publisher’s representative with the librarian, the closed-access text with an open education resource, and pre-packaged technological systems with tailored, personally designed points for student-teacher interaction, the OER educator closes the educational gap and opens possibilities for the university to function more as a community and less according to corporate models of educational banking.”

Below is a grid I created based on the literature and some thinking about what openness and closedness can mean. I couldn’t find so much literature on closed education, but I considered it as the opposite of open education (cf. Nyberg 2009). The table is pretty much exaggerating, in-between cases are not marked even though, I believe, most of the actual learning programs can be placed along a continuum between the two extremes.

 

Closed (extreme) Open (extreme)
Admission Certificates / diplomas proof previously gained knowledge

Entry exams, standardized tests and/or interviews

Certified examiners choose best applicants

No proofs of previously gained knowledge are needed

No formalized admission procedure
Only learner’s self-selection

Tuition fees Yes

(Some scholarship opportunities might be offered for compensation so that good applicants with low socioeconomic status can also enter)

No tuition at all
Supervision Certified experts with authority define, plan, lead and supervise the learning process

Peer support to  various extent

No external support at all, work based on individual work (?)
Materials Printed or subscribed online content Open Access, online content
Time frame Centrally dictated schedule and pace of learning (cf. curriculum and course structure); deadlines, pre-scheduled meetings, etc. Totally individual pace of learning, no time frame
Location On-campus meetings Online activities

 

The following table is about ONL191 as I see it:

 

Closed (extreme) Open (extreme)
Admission ONL191 is a mixed model with institutional and free learners — but no entry exam or systematic pre-selection of participants
Tuition fees Free
Supervision Here teachers… …are called facilitators
Materials Open Access
Time frame ONL191 is pretty closed and restrictive with 2 weeks given for studying a topic, requiring attendance at several pre-scheduled (and then continuously re-scheduled) group meetings, requiring assignments with tight deadlines but… …some lectures and seminars can be followed asynchronously as well)
Location Learners come from different continents even — pretty open

 

Making an in-service teacher education course open to all: a teaser 🙂 

Currently I lead an Erasmus+ in-service teacher training program “Everyday Creativity” for teachers from four countries (Romania, Hungary, Italy and the Netherlands; see https://creativeschools.eu/). We use blended learning as our frame. The course activities are built on freely available materials which we linked to tasks we designed systematically. From the very beginning, we have wanted to build on Open Access materials since we knew that later we would make this course open. We have developed the course with Erasmus+ funding so it is actually our contractual obligation to make the course open. But what elements can we make open from the original course? How does the nature of the course change while we are opening it to anybody? So what will we gain if the openly available material will be so much reduced and will not be able to provide the original course experience? These are the questions we will think about with my colleagues, Gomathy Soundararaj and Tea Kangasvieri with whom we will actually implement the “opening up”. At this moment, we are planning a conference presentation about this topic. We believe that the well-compiled Open Access sources and the insightful tasks will help people in self- or group-reflection, and make them think about the teaching profession.

 

Conclusion

All in all, despite widespread celebratory discourses on Open Education, I believe that Closed Education has been out there for a reason: learner selection, certified experts, reliable and checked materials, purposeful planning, deadlines, etc. help the learners to go through a study path which is custom designed and which benefits them. Of course the extreme version of closed education is harmful as it increases power imbalance and is anti-democratic in many ways. However, extremely open, fluid and flux education leaves the learner without relevant support (e.g. supervision, time frame). As my above reflections on ONL191 show, courses include elements of both open and closed education. Shifting from closed to open might induce a substantial change in quality and learner experience both to good and bad direction (e.g. great flexibility vs. less support from experts).

 

References

Week 5 – Being / becoming open

Again, I could not attend the webinar so I share my reflections here, especially regarding the five dimensions of openness, and the risks of making something open without proper support.

So first my self-reflection in the light of the five dimensions:

  1. Sharing own content: I’m happy to share own content, e.g. tasks that I use in my teaching. I also quite often ask colleagues to share their ideas and good practices with me so I think it’s part of a mutually beneficial cooperation.
  2. Encouraging students to share: in my courses, most of assignments are open to the study group at least so students can read others’ posts and learn from them, but I also encourage students to share their work in their blog if they wish (I never make it compulsory, though). The only assignment which is by default cannot be open to the study group is the reflective learning diary which is the summary of one’s learning path in the course, and might include quite personal and sensitive issues. I at least mention to students that sharing some parts of their reflective diary with peers can be useful (as it can start conversation which gives birth to new ideas).
  3. Sharing research data: I’ve shared the anonymized rough transcripts of the corpus of my Ph.D. dissertation (without voice or visuals to secure anonymity). Other than that, I haven’t made any bugger data set public to researchers. It is pretty challenging in my field since in ethnographic research you encounter and record (narratives of) quite sensitive situations that cannot be made open in any way. Further, I work a lot with visuals as well (I also teach visual ethnography) which means locations and people can be identified from materials. So I need to be extra super strict not to share anything my participants wouldn’t want to share themselves with the whole world…
  4. Using open educational resources: now that my job includes the continuous development of a study specialization and its courses (in a team, of course), I continuously browse for open sources, and adapt them to the purposes of such courses (if licence makes it possible).
  5. Networking online: I regularly ask colleagues to share ideas and resources, both offline and online. I’m also member of a project (IKI – Innovatiivisen kielikasvatuksen kartta ja kompassi, roughly ‘The map and compass of innovative language education) which helps teachers to make their good practices visible to all.

The keywords presented from Laura Czerniewicz’s conference paper made me think about different ways in which the idea of open education can get distorted. In my case,  making a course open means that learners can work flexibly but they still get enough support and their learning doesn’t become incoherent and/or fragmented. Further, will all materials we share with them make sense to them without teacher’s support? No I am in the process of making open materials for a self-study course which will not include teacher support (we don’t have any resource allocated for that), so how will that work? Do we liberate learners from teacher control, or do we actually just abandon them?

Week 4 – digital literacies

Continuing my reflections on the webinar on online presence and digital literacies, I would first note that I don’t believe Cultural, Constructive, Creative and Comunicative skills are so distinct of digital modalities. Digital tools of course can enhance and accelerate the development of such skills to some extent (even to great extent), but I don’t believe these are definitive elements of digital literacies per se. I have the same take on the claim that Confident, Cognitive, Critical and Civic mindsets would be so directly connected to the digital era. Sure, if we consider that we need to be more aware of what we post as we reach huge communities so easily, these mindsets are maybe more important than in other modalities, so I can relate to that part. I just find it problematic how digital literacies are branded as something radically new. I can rather relate to the recycling/remaking idea which emphasizes that several literacy skills that we develop in different contexts are integrated and transformed into digital modalities, and of course digital literacy practices also influence ‘offline’ activities.

Another rather direct distinction in the suggested materials that hit me was the native vs. immigrant or resident vs. visitor dichotomy. Here again I have witnessed a rather unreflected celebration of native/resident communities. Native speakerism is a pretty problematic concept in linguistics as well so I don’t quite see the point why it is worth adapting to this context as well. Sure, the recommended materials to some extent have noted that literacies can be understood along a scale so being native doesn’t necessarily mean to be perfect. However, emphasizing nativism can discourage people with ‘non-native’ digital identities, suggesting that non-natives cannot really help so-called natives. Thinking about languages, I have experienced that I can help my native English speaker students in academic writing even though I am not a native speaker – but still, I have built some specific skills, and they can benefit from dialogue with me.

Just like the person in the scenario, I feel confused in this course. Not because I can’t handle devices or software nor because this would be my first online course (I’ve taken some already and also taught online). I simply find communication in this course chaotic and opaque. Quite often I feel I just simply quit because I don’t really need another layer of assignments in my life which then lead to frustration rather than a rewarding experience. Anyway, I don’t yet quit so let’s see what emerges from this mess.

Week 3 – online participation

I couldn’t follow the live webinar, so I answer some of the questions I found interesting when reading the slides. So first, what irritates me in digital technology? I think it’s not digital technology in itself that irritates me but rather its quite uncritical celebration in education.

Quite often, it is taken for granted that we need to use IT wherever and whenever to transform interaction but interaction can actually follow quite similar patterns with or without technology, as my own research also shows. I think IT tools provide certain good opportunities but we shouldn’t rely on them too much or blindly. I quite often use ‘offline’ discussions and crafting (gluing, cutting, drawing, etc.) in my university teaching because I found embodied multi-sensory learning can be enhanced by such methods as well.

Answering questions about my personal history, I have been using computers since 1993 (then I was 11) and got my first online experience at around 1994. I immediately wanted to watch online videos which was quite challenging since the connection was pretty slow. Then the internet looked quite different, and I needed to be quite conscious about what and how to search as search engines were quite primitive – compared to the current situation. From the very beginning, being online has meant being multilingual as well. Already in the 90s, I used quite a lot of English and then French as my skills had developed. Today I mainly use English, Finnish and Hungarian in my online life – Hungarian being my native language but not my main working language.

I started using my first mobile phone in 2000; I very seldom used it as it was so expensive to call and text. But anyway, it has proved to be useful. I have been using Google services since 2005. I started using social media platforms at around the same time. Then there was a pretty popular Hungarian portal called iWiW – now it doesn’t exist any more. I joined Facebook at around 2006 but last year abandoned it due to my emerging social media addiction. I have experienced many positive effects of not being on FB and not using other main social media platforms either. For this reason, I am quite critical about the ever increasing pressure on academics to be on social media and post and share all the time. It’s like pressing alcoholics to drink more alcohol as part of their regular job. I think that through my teaching, research and other outreach activities I can still gain visibility and make an impact.

Week 2 – Connecting

This week ONL191 has gone OK. Nothing extraordinary, nothing revolutionary, but practicalities get organized and first tasks are done. This week has been quite hectic, surprise meetings, surprise tasks, super tight deadlines – and I’ve been travelling whole week so I’m not yet overjoyed. But hopefully the team goes to a good direction 🙂

Otherwise I think I’ve been active and helped the group in reaching its goals. It’s interesting to see how heterogeneous this group is; we actually picked the topic of diversity as the organizing idea of our PBL13 presentation as well. Let’s see how the journey continues!