Shifting from engagement to empowerment

There is a lot of talk about increasing student engagement. For me, engagement suggests the teacher sets the agenda and the student then engages.

What about shifting away from this to a more student directed model – where the student determines what they want to learn and then sets about working out how?

Engagement then becomes empowerment.

For me, this is at the heart of the change we need to make in education; we need to equip students with the skills to be creative, enquiring and critical – long after their time in the classroom with us.

This video from John Spencer @spencerideas really encapsulates this shift in thinking and action. Plus, video has a simple format; black and white… nice design 😉

 

Reflections on #mosomelt bootcamp 2017

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The traditional notion of a ‘bootcamp’ conjures up images of blood, sweat and toil; of instructions for almost unachievable tasks being shouted at quivering participants by military style authoritarians, with the purpose as much about them relishing their domination and power as it is about personal achievements of those taking part. Today’s #mosomelt bootcamp at AUT South was the antithesis of this. Rather, it was an opportunity to get together mid-way through the semester, to chat as equals and share ideas for trying, evaluating, and implementing digital technologies into our learning and teaching.

Today, perhaps even more than usual, I was struck by our shared goals that transcend our disciplinary areas; the heutogological self-determined learning we strive for in our students and the almost statutory period of unlearning required by them (and teaching staff) to enable the seeds of this learning experience to be allowed to grow and flourish; the shared challenges we face either with students or institutional structures and processes creating unnecessary and sometimes necessary hurdles to be considered and negotiated.

While our discussions included challenges with ‘things’: iPhones, iPads, Apps and other gadgets, I think it was agreed that the bigger challenge lies within the mindset of people who don’t easily see the role of self-determined learning or the value in exploring, embracing, and critiquing digital media within the tertiary setting, despite the inevitability of an increasingly digitialised world for our graduates within an uncertain and changing future workforce paradigm.

 

I was reminded of Arthur Koestler (1905-1983), the Hungarian-British author and journalist, who possibly might have thought bootcamps were just what were needed to ignite innovation within the staid academic traditionalists:

“The inertia of the human mind and its resistance to innovation are most clearly demonstrated not, as one might expect, by the ignorant mass- which is easily swayed once its imagination is caught- but by professionals with a vested interest in tradition and in the monopoly of learning. Innovation is a twofold threat to academic mediocrities: it endangers their oracular authority, and it evokes the deeper fear that their whole, laboriously constructed intellectual edifice might collapse. The academic backwoodsmen have been the curse of genius from Aristarchus to Darwin and Freud; they stretch, a solid and hostile phalanx of pedantic mediocrities, across the centuries.”

 

While Koestler’s words are harsh they reflect his frustration with the hesitancy to change as the world changes, which perhaps today, in our 21st Century tertiary setting, is just not an option (especially if we are ‘the university for the changing world’).

I was reminded that during last week’s student presentations for our Media and Communication in Health Promotion paper, one student made the statement:

“Social media skill is not any more a matter of choice”

They presented the statement as a quote and I asked the student who were they quoting – they replied that it was their own.

Not only was the student’s message correct, but they had come to realise this themselves, through their own curation of, and reflection on, learning experiences facilitated through engagement with the class discussions and independent exploration. Furthermore, they felt confident to present their idea as a quote as if declaring the legitimacy of their own learning and experientially informed knowledge.

Their quote has stayed with me and it’s relevance solidified during today’s bootcamp discussions on possible inappropriate uses of social media by students, likely ramifications and the most effective strategies for instilling ethical use of social media. Do we steer clear of using social media in learning and teaching or do we have an ethical obligation to embrace it, thus allowing for a more collaborative, supportive learning environment within which students can assess the appropriateness of its use?

Do we wait for students to fall and then berate them like the traditional bootcamp’s authoritarian leader or do we embrace social media and together explore its boundaries and benefits? Perhaps “its not any more a matter of choice“.

#mosomelt 2017 setting off…

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With my recent focus being on student enrolments and getting the first couple of weeks of classes up and running I feel quite excited to be now setting off on my own path of discovery with #mosomelt launching for 2017. Having participated in #mosomelt before I know a little of what is ahead but at the same time am still very much a learner.

Since my last venture into Vine-land I see that it has been renamed Vine camera yet it looks a feels very much the same. I like the idea that you can create 6 seconds of video with no post production editing needed. It takes some thought to decide how you will fill that 6 seconds and could be a very creative tool for students as the user must learn how to cover a lot of ground while being very concise.

So on this return to the App I probably have more ideas of its uses and potential within learning and teaching. What I certainly don’t have is a clear sense of how it works- after capturing my 6 seconds of video. The images and icons presented as instructional guides for editing, saving, posting etc, to me, don’t seem very intuitive and it took several attempts to delete my first very rubbish video but then also to work out how to save a slightly better one. It really was a case of random navigation and a visit to Google search to work out how to save and post to the Google Community and Twitter. I’m interested in others’ experiences as this is a continuing issue for me . Somehow there is a mis-match between the App’s guidance and the way my brain is wired. Luckily there are obviously others like me…enough to warrant kind people creating YouTube clips and Google searchable instructions- that make sense to me! Phew!

A straight path misses many opportunities for learning…

Seeking out discomfort

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This week I came across a post by Alyssa Tormala on the edutopia site. Entitled ‘Discomfort, Growth, and Innovation’ Tormala outlined the essential nature of innovation in education, highlighting the need to disrupt the status quo but tempered with the notion that, for many, changing what we do brings discomfort.

Here, at the end of the semester, there is a period of reflection and projection. There is some sense of comfort in what has been completed and a feeling that students have enjoyed their learning experience but this is surpassed by thoughts of what comes next – what can I do differently next time?  what can I tweak?

I feel I am drawn to discomfort and uncertainty – looking for new ways to do things, trying them even when I’m not sure they will work. I feel my drive for continual change is almost more about my needs than those of the students. I could change nothing and things would very likely work well.

Discomfort is also something I expect from my students. Teaching ethics begins with a period of unlearning; an unsettledness for students where the long established assumptions about life’s issues or their specific professional practice unravels a little as they are encouraged to examine the underpinnings of their decisions. Sometimes, for the first time, students are confronted with the complexity and inconsistencies that make up their decision-making processes, something those of us in this and related fields grappled with a lengthy time ago; inconsistencies in which we now find comfort.

At present I am at the start of a new discomfort trajectory. I have been given a new paper to teach next semester. It is not entirely new but has been gathering dust having not been offered for the past 6 years. It’s called Media and Communication in Health Promotion. Tormala’s ‘Discomfort, Growth and Innovation’ are all words that come to mind given the exponential change to our conception of ‘media’ and ‘communication’ during the time of this paper’s dormancy. A complete overhaul is needed. A blank slate. A fresh start. Exciting but daunting as I suddenly feel ill-equipped, inadequate and a little overwhelmed. Discomfort is definitely present but this time my questions what can I do differently and what needs to change aren’t so much reflections of personal indulgence but completely essential. This feels like a new type of discomfort, a feeling of pressure by others rather than me looking for personal growth. Perhaps I have grown comfortable with my own form of discomfort? Maybe its time to disrupt my status quo.

 

Looking back and looking forward

Today Thom has asked me to come along to a session with my colleagues from the School of Interprofessional Health Studies.  And so, I’m thinking about what I might share with this group; what is it that has been the key learning for me over the past couple of years?

I think there are 3 key points I’d like to share:

  1. Being a learner makes you a more understanding, effective teacher.

I’ve gone back to my first terrifying blog post.

screenshot-2016-09-07-09-47-51Now, looking back I wonder what was so difficult! I’ve always used online technology in my teaching but realised that over the years I had become very comfortable and confident with the specific tool I used. So for me it has been hugely important to feel uncomfortable and unsettled and rediscover what it feels like to learn how to use new tools. It’s good for me personally but essential for me as a teacher to better understand what my students may be experiencing and the different ways we learn new things.

2. Learning involves and requires a supportive environment: Mucking things up is a great way to learn!

One of the highlights of working with Thom has been the botch ups! Being in an environment where mistakes are ok, where we are encouraged to work things out for ourselves, where we can laugh and learn together has been a treat. Again it trickles down to how we work with our on students; about being authentic and perhaps feeling ok about being vulnerable.

Who would have though my phone’s camera had a ‘right way up’??!!

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With this outlook, students are appreciative:

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This quest for authenticity within the online learning environment has led me to adopt Bambuser , live mobile broadcasting App, as a key digital learning and teaching tool. The ‘live’ broadcast goes some way for replicating the ‘one-take only’ reality of face to face teaching where we cannot edit or retrospectively tidy up our presentation. For me this tool has been a key part of my development as an online teacher and learner. Authentic, live and uneditable!

“… first of all I just wanted to say thank you for being so helpful with your online videos that have allowed me to understand the assignment much better… it doesn’t feel like a online course anymore great job”

3. The Community of Practice (COP) is a central component to professional development.

Perhaps the most significant outcome of our time with Thom has been the development and our Health Law and Ethics COP. Although very small and with some fluctuations in terms of membership a core group of four has regularly met. The surface focus is usually on learning about and then how to use a specific digital tool: Twitter, WordPress, Vine, audioBoom, TodaysMeet, etc. But the underlying essence has been on being together, learning together, sharing experiences, being supportive, collectively considering our specific learning and teaching requirements, considering our respective students’ needs, testing ideas out and getting to know one another on a new level.

This has been immensely beneficial to the ways we work together and support one another. Ultimately we hope it will also transfer into improved learning experiences for our students but along the way we’re certainly having fun…and some great coffee!

 

360 degree views

 

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Wednesdays are our ‘Digital Thom’ days when our small Health Law and Ethics COP meets to talk, try things out and enjoy good coffee. We used to meet on campus but have recently discovered an off-site café, very close by.

Meeting off site from the university has been a positive shift for us on many fronts. We get a tiny bit of exercise, making the 5 min trek across the road to the Little Wonder café. Meeting on Wednesdays is a great mid-week event often surrounded either side by a myriad of other work related activities and pressures. During that simple act of breaking away the short travel time reminds me that there is a real world out there; a 360 degree world, where the wind blows, it rains, and for a short time the pressures of the office are set aside. The walk over is just enough time to air a thorny issue or a chance to compare slow cookers or discuss the pros and cons of house renovations. The 5 minutes of time seems to distort and seem longer than it really is.

Distorted images were also on the agenda of this week’s COP meet. Thom introduced us to his new LG 360 Cam and we were able to be his guinea pigs as he tested it out. At first he couldn’t get the photos to save on his phone and then our first run testing the video the camera  was squarely focused on the decorative plant on our table, rather than us. I reminded Thom that things not working, of setting up things slightly incorrectly, were very reminiscent of our everyday digital practice. The ‘shame’ of getting things wrong was our frequent default position, but maybe not so frequently his! In that instance though – a 360 turning of the tables.

The 360 Cam technology reminds me of the importance of gathering the full ‘big picture’ view and what different angles bring to discussions and decisions. In our COP we are planning a ‘refresher’ session where in early semester 2 we will invite programme leaders and other interested stakeholders to a workshop where we will remind the programmes we serve of our current content but will also aim to invite them to contribute and help inform new directions for the content and delivery of our papers. Engaging others, seeking their views and valuing their input are all important components of our classroom (real or virtual) ethos but also highly valued considerations in terms of the way we plan and update and move forward with the delivery of our health law and ethics papers. We would be doing our students, their programmes, and ourselves a disservice if we failed to fully consider the 360 degree views of what and how we teach.

It was a lot of fun testing out the LG 360 Cam and as with other tools we could see its potential for engaging further with our students, but this week the main point of reflection for me was the reminder of the big picture, that things look different depending where we’re sitting and the importance of valuing diverse (and distorted views). The 360 degree concept gave me much to think about on the way back to the office –  and beyond.

Moving house? #mosomelt

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I’m thinking of moving house. It’s not that I really dislike my current house but I’ve been here a while – and it’s time for fresh walls and a new view.

The move I’m referring to is away from Blackboard, our university provided Learning Management System and into somewhere new.

I teach a wide range of disciplines in an interdisciplinary health care ethics paper. Many students undertake this in their final semester and so for a large proportion of these, their time is swallowed up undertaking onerous clinical placements – with some students away from the university in a full time clinical role for nine weeks of the semester as well as having to juggle reflective assessments and a placement journal before they even get to think about my paper. They are under stress, are time stretched and I am guessing many do not really see the value in studying ethics.

With that back story I too feel under pressure. I want my students to see the relevance of ethics, the value in critical thinking and undertaking robust examination of their own and others’ decision-making processes. I understand they have limited time to give to my paper. They also learn online but this is through necessity rather than choice. Many struggle with time management as well as grappling with the challenging content and required skills to effectively deliberate ethical issues.

I’m under pressure because Blackboard feels like the easy option. I feel strongly that our role as educators is equipping students with some knowledge (but let’s face it, that’s pretty easy to come by these days), but also positive learning experiences that will fuel them with a passion to keep wanting to be curious about the world. A part of this, for me, is equipping them with tools that they can use in their world, post degree. I want them to have access to the work they’ve done and contributed to; to have skills to continue using tools learned while at university and to have the potential to use them in practice or to teach their use to others.

I use Blackboard as a repository for paper content and this is where I post audio and video files I’ve created to aid their learning, power point slides and readings. I also use the Values Exchange, online ethical decision-making framework where most of the actual learning takes place. This tool hosts a number of philosophical thinking tools, created from decades of philosophical application and critique of traditional ethical theory by its creator. Students respond to lecturer and/or student posted case scenarios and use a series of interactive screens to capture their deliberative analysis of the case. I also use tools such as Twitter and Bambuser to disseminate useful information I come across or have created specifically for the students and they are encouraged to use the class in their tweets. Assessments are then a combination of theory application and critique and reflections on the deliberative experience of the Values Exchange process and outcomes -submitted via Word doc through Blackboard.

I’m quite aware that the majority of my students like the familiarity of Blackboard and when under time constraints the idea of navigating yet another piece of technology is indeed a real barrier; many are resistant to change, just as we all are at times. However, to be authentic and true to myself I feel I need to shift to using tools that are sustainable for the student beyond their time with me. I also feel it’s time for me to feel more challenged and to have new learning experiences.

My undergraduate class currently has 240 students – thats a lot of people to stress-out and unsettle so I’ve decided to see if I can first implement changes in a much smaller, semester 2, postgraduate ethics paper. Two tools that spring to mind are ones that I’ve experienced myself, as a learner in the #mosomelt cMOOC experience. These are WordPress and Google+ Community. Having experienced first as a learner enables me to more effectively step into the shoes of my students, to better understand what it means to learn about and use these tools, as well as being able to anticipate the likely issues that will arise for my students using them. I’ll continue to use the Values Exchange as a foundational learning tool, as it offers such discipline specific learning opportunities, and the other Apps such as Twitter and Bambuser but much more of what my students learn and experience will be able to be taken with them for potential ongoing use.

Starting small, with this postgrad group ,will allow me to build confidence and get valuable feedback from the students with the idea to implement a more substantial shift when the undergrad paper is next offered. Looking back to this time last year I wouldn’t have envisaged a shift of this nature, evidence that the #mosomelt cMOOC has/is enabling me to see my teaching differently and along with our little COP, has created in me confidence to start packing my bags for the move.

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The return of the digital warriors for 2016 #mosomelt

Our small law and ethics community of practice is back in business for another year of learning; learning about learning, about digital tools but mostly learning about ourselves. Over the summer our School has under gone some restructuring so we now find ourselves as a distinct discipline. I’m looking forward to continuing our relationships with public health but also recognising the opportunities to expand the profile of health law and ethics within our School, faculty and the wider learning community. 

This year I’m hoping to cement the learning stemming from #mosomelt ,last year and with more confidence start implementing more, more often. I particularly enjoyed using Bambuser to live stream announcements and information to my students. The ‘live’ element somehow appeals to me as I feel it most closely replicates the live, one take only nature of face to face teaching. I got pretty good feedback from my students – none accessed these live but did tap into the Bambuser links I gave them. I had used my iMac to make these recordings but now free Bambuser access is just limited to digital devices so I’ve bought a little tripod and will see how I get on broadcasting from my iPhone.

I’d also like to increase my use of Twitter. I read last week about a nursing course where setting up and using a Twitter account was an assessed part of the course – combining teaching ethics with helping students learn how to use digital tools in paratice and as professional development tools is very appealing. One of my students this year came to see me for help and said “oh my goodness, Twitter. Good grief, how am I supposed to do that”. Hopefully I can model some simple ways of using this tool to engage and share ideas and resources and they will feel better by the end of the semester. 

I’d also like to think about a shift away from Blackboard and perhaps consider using WordPress as the main site for content delivery. Again I feel strongly that students need to be able to access their learning experiences beyond their time at university plus learn about tools that they can then implement in their practice and everyday lives. 

Above all though, I’m looking forward to the further development of our community of practice, to have that safe space to learn, to do things wrong and to build confidence. Positive outcomes will inevitably stem from our time together this year.

Digital warriors – Transforming pedagogy one step at a time

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A Personal reflection for AKO #NPF14LMD Project

Background

I teach interdisciplinary health care ethics online and in a blended learning environment. For the past ten years I have been using the Values Exchange (Vx), a web-based, networked, ethical decision-making platform, for facilitating online debate on ethical issues in practice. This is a small scale, niche, digital technology, developed by former AUT Professor of Health and Social Ethics, David Seedhouse, and currently used by 16 international higher education institutions, mainly in the delivery of health related degree programmes. My prolonged use of the Vx means that is has become a comfortable online place; a familiar space within which to teach, to network and to learn. As part of the AKO #NPF14LMD project embarking upon the Mosomelt cMOOC at the beginning of 2015 was a side step into the abyss, taking me from a place of certainty into the unknown world of digital mobile learning.

Reflecting on this experience helps me to further consider my students as new learners of technology. I now have first hand experience of being presented with new ways of doing and recognising the potential, but then being faced with a gap in understanding of how things work and how I can actualise that potential. I’m mindful of the range of social and digital media my students use on a daily basis and, like me, they are possibly taken to their own abyss through the introduction to them of the Vx, even more so when its use will form part of how they will be assessed.

Reflecting on the first steps towards pedagogical transformation

When looking back on my cMOOC experiences they can be categorised in two ways; the technologies and my own development. On the surface, the cMOOC introduced me to a broad range of digital technologies which included Vine, Vyclone, Bambuser, audioBoom, Twitter, WordPress, and Google Communities, Docs, Hangouts and Cardboard, with a new digital tool being introduced each week. Some of these I will discuss later, as I see real potential for them enhancing my teaching and my students’ learning experiences, through their implementation.

Perhaps of greater impact though, has been the professional and personal development that has taken place this year. On the one hand these developments could be seen as incidental and an aside to the accumulation of tool-specific knowledge but for me the relational deliverables are central to the ongoing transformational process of being a teacher. In essence, to teach one first has to learn; my cMOOC experiences have equipped me with new understandings not only about what I have learned, but how I learn, and how this is the same and different from others’ learning styles. This has illuminated my recognition of the multiple ways of learning. I’ve become more in touch with the ways I learn best and the barriers to learning, as exemplified in this early blog post:

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Figure 1: Reflecting on barriers to my own learning

Sustained digital learning

Given the often low completion rates for online learning courses, actually completing the cMOOC was, in itself, an accomplishment. Three things made ‘sticking with it’ possible. Firstly, having the support of CfLAT, through the provision of mobile devices to undertake the cMOOC, but also in the support provided by CfLAT’s Thom Cochrane whose approach allowed us to explore, try out and learn for (and about) ourselves, rather than simply being ‘instructed’ on how things worked.

Secondly, having a colleagial ‘buddy’ to maintain the digital connection through the weeks and in between our visits from Thom was central. In my case this was Professor Kate Diesfeld. Kate and I had been colleagues for ten years but the time together exploring digital tools brought a new richness to our relationship. Kate was very new to technology, bringing a positive spin to everything we attempted. Kate coined the term ‘Digital warriors’ to describe our community of practice (COP) and our commitment to try anything and everything – by just taking one step at a time. The significance of small achievements in our own personal learning was always celebrated within the COP, with success seen in terms of learner advancement along their own unique learner continuum. To recognise individual learning is something that I have come to value and will take into my own teaching environment.

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Figure 2: Recognising learner specific achievements

Thirdly, and possibly most important (and more difficult in the absence of the first two points), was a mindset of not being afraid to fail. Kate and I laughed about ‘having no shame’, realising that it is through making mistakes and not getting things quite right, that we were presented with the more powerful and memorable learning experiences, as was the case with some of my early Vyclone attempts.

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Figure 3: Not quite getting Vyclone right

With both Kate and I starting the cMOOC feeling much more comfortable with a well prepared lecture, the notion of creating impromptu videos in AUT’s Akoranga student cafeteria was certainly out of our initial comfort zone. However within weeks we were creating these in our own time, thinking not only of how we could use each learned technology to transform our own teaching and learning practices, but reflecting on the ways in which the creation of the small community of practice had enhanced our interactions with one another and our colleagues, as evident in this slightly better produced Vyclone: http://www.vyclone.com/movie/5580d75952e857f905000030

Implemeted digital tools

From the suite of digital tools we were introduced to during the cMOOC, Twitter and Bambuser are the two that I’ve been able to implement immediately. My own assessment, as well as student feedback, suggests that these digital additions have added value to my students’ learning experiences. Somehow the learning environment needs to safely challenge students to embrace new platforms, new tools, new ways of seeing, if they are to cope with the uncertainty and the ever-changing technological landscape in which they will work and live. However, change is challenging for many. There is often a sense of resistence from students who have their time stretched between papers and work and who feel the introduction of new tools is an imposition, and just too hard, as this undergraduate student comments:

“WE DONT HAVE TIME TO LEARN HOW TO USE A NEW WEBSITE AND GO THROUGH PILES OF JUNK AS WELL AS DO 12 HOUR SHIFTS and study for the clinical teacher and study for the ward AND do the TRANSITION to nursing practice paper. It needs to be simpler. easier for the students.”

While traditional learning management systems provide a consistent framework across papers, their content is not always able to be taken with the student upon completion of their degree and they will certainly not use the same systems in their workplaces. There is therefore an argument to find supportive ways to help equip students for the unknown future, using the sorts of digital tools they will likely have access to themselves in their post-university work and lives .Twitter is one such tool.

Twitter

While Twitter seems to have reasonable uptake by young people, anecdotal evidence suggests that many people do not readily see its potential as a teaching and learning tool. I see my teaching role as being not only to facilitate lifelong learning and enhancement of a critical lens for ethical issues, but also to help equip students with tools that they might use in practice in their pursuit of these ends and to foster in them a level of self-confidence to embrace new ways of learning.

My decision to use Twitter in my teaching relates to these goals in that Twitter can be used to not only disseminate actual course content (assessment tips) and also course related content (interesting incidental readings). I also use Twitter to share resources media reports on issues I am personally passionate about (education, animal welfare, aviation) as well as sharing posts to my WordPress blog. My aim is to not only share course related learning resources and opportunities, but to model ways in which I have come to value Twitter so that my students may come to new ways of seeing its potential in their own lives. As part of my ethics teaching I highlight the benefits of open, transparent respectful relationships. Sharing my Twitter feed and including a range of professional and personal tweets helps me to feel like an authentic teacher, and I hope, reflects the values I teach.

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Figure 4: Twitter feed showing variety of posts

Each semester this year students were given my Twitter handle and invited to follow me, however only a small number of students took up this opportunity. Therefore, to ensure equity, all tweeted course related material were also shared via other mechanisms, for instance Blackboard. The relatively small number of student followers may be attributed to a number of reasons. Firstly, the earlier extract of student feedback makes it clear that some students have time pressures and the use of additional digital tools is seen as complicated and possibly, unnecessary. Secondly, it is possible that many students don’t use Twitter. Upon checking the profiles of several following students, showed that many were new to Twitter, possibly only creating their profile after my responding to my general invitation.

Challenges for the delivery of online ethics education.

Teaching interdisciplinary ethics in an online environment is challenging as students may not value ethics education, they may be pressured by their own disciplines to prioritise more clinical papers, or they may struggle with the required critical thinking skills and the lack of ‘hard facts’ that they may be more familiar with. Ethics education is, in part, about challenging assumptions and involves a degree on ‘unlearning’. To learn in the presence of these factors means that in an online learning environment, especially, students are more likely to undergo valuable personal learning when they feel the lecturer is open and approachable. A challenge therefore is, in the absence of face to face teaching, to find ways to project myself in ‘real’ ways, rather than purely as a static provider of course content. While tools such as Google Hangouts provide options for real-time online ‘face to face’ discussions, these are time consuming when the online group sizes are limited and the class roll exceeds 100 students. Bambuser suitably fills this gap.

Bambuser

Bambuser provides a live stream with opportunities for synchronous, interactive messaging, as well as creating links for asynchronous access by students. These broadcasts are also linked to my Twitter feed so that all followers (students and others) are automatically notified that live streaming is taking place. I’ve been using Bambuser in a number of ways, including a focus on specific areas of course content and sharing information about assessments.

I am yet to embrace Bambuser’s live messaging function as I feel I need all my enegry to keep on task and remember what I want the broadcast to cover and I don’t have the confidence to also be having students send live questions. However, I do want them to feel able to ask questions and in return receive dynamic responses that the wider class can also benefit from. My solution this past semester has been to use the Vx online survey tool to ask on a weekly basis ‘From the material you’ve accessed this week, what would you like to know more about”. This allows students to raise issues about aspects of the content they are finding difficult to understand but also to seek additional information to extend their learning on topics of specific interest. Responses are then collated and bespoke broadcasts created.

Assessments are often a focus of student anxiety. While I would rather my students focus on learning than just assessment, I recognise that with information, anxiety dissipates so I’ve been using Bambuser to explain assessments and to give background information and tips. For many students ethics is a new subject area or their experience of ethics education is in terms of determining right or wrong actions, whereas rather than looking for objectivity, the philosophy of my teaching follows more of a values-based ideology whereby decisions are deemed ‘good’ if they are well argued and clearly justified. This process involves a combination of reflective introspection and an interdisciplinary ‘outrospection’. The combination of a new subject, perhaps a different and challenging ideology, along with an online learning environment contribute to this sense of assessment anxiety. Bambuser has been very effective in addressing these issues with, for instance 257 views for a broadcast on the first assessment, from a roll of 130 students.

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Figure 5: Bambuser broadcast

Not only do these broadcasts help address student anxiety, they help me feel more connected with my class, and the feedback seems to be positive:

“… first of all I just wanted to say thank you for being so helpful with your online videos that have allowed me to understand the assignment much better and thank you for the way you have provided the students with so much information online in detail that it doesn’t feel like a online course anymore great job”

I personally like Bambuser as it puts me on edge; it reminds me that I’m a digital warrior. It is a live broadcast so one the one hand I feel ever so apprehensive that my broadcast is going out live – to everyone, not just my students, plus, whatever mistakes or fumblings I make will be digitally stored for evermore. However, on the other hand I feel very much more connected with my teaching and helps me to feel a part of my students’ learning. The ‘live-ness’ reminds me of the aspects of our ‘digital warriors’ COP that I value: an importance to embrace authenticity, to be ok about making mistakes and to model this realness to my students. Hopefully there has been a successful transmission of not only information but also an element of myself, as a person and as a teacher, and that, even with mistakes, this has more value than a pre-recorded, edited production. Early indications from students are that this might be so.

Concluding thoughts

When considering my own teaching and learning transformation process, I recognise I am still very much a novice in terms of mobile learning implementations. My efforts to incorporate Twitter and Bambuser into my teaching practices and dabbling with a range of other digital technologies has helped me establish a foundation for ongoing integration into my future teaching. And, as a learner first, I feel well placed to teach others these tools, but without the pressure to have to know it all, or always get it right. Learning involves and requires a supportive environment. For me the cMOOC experience has been about discovery and opportunity. The ‘c’ in cMOOC has come to represent many things: connectivism, conversations, community, collaboration, creativity, coffee and a can-do attitude. They were all present and arguably all necessary for the creation and continuation of such an environment. I look forward to a future of ongoing transformation both for my students’ learning and my own professional development.

#mosomelt Departmental digital discussions…feels like the COP is off the ground!!

copdrawing

A couple of weeks back I set up what I hoped to be a regular space and time for us, as a department, to meet to discuss digital teaching and learning and to also share our experiences of using digital tools. I hoped we could learn with and from others.

The first week it was just two of us! However we had fun and it was productive in digital and social ways. I was reminded of my trouble with instructions and with no instructions for how to connect my laptop to the projector in the room meant we ended up just talking really. It’s slightly frustrating that some Apps and tools require some functions to be carried out on a laptop or PC  and I easily forget which device I need to be on to do what I want to do!

I think for me a key thing is to feel I am in a safe environment to just be myself and to get things wrong, to try things and fail, and for all that to be ok. I wonder about my students and the technologies they use in my papers and hope I am providing this same safe space to try, to test, and to hopefully, sometimes, get it right.

I feel my department is a good place to talk and share digital ideas as many of us have dabbled a little but nobody is claiming expert status!

Yesterday there were four of us at our weekly ‘Digital’ lunch session. It’s growing in popularity!! Has a Community of Practice been born??!

As a department the decision has been made for us to relocate to South campus in 2017 so part of our time together yesterday was thinking about how this could provide an opportunity to think and do things differently in terms of teaching and learning. I recognise the value of face to face class time with the whiteboard, flip charts and pens, and the important physical connections with students, but I also see the value of combining these more traditional teaching tools with some of the very creative educational technologies now available to us.

It would be good to start to compile some literature that would support the adoption of such innovations and to think about the specific needs of our students and the associated benefits and limitations for them. That way we could feel confident that not only are we being responsive to shifts in technology but are implementing tools, and teaching and learning strategies, that are pedagogically sound.

We also spoke yesterday of some of the challenges finding the ‘perfect’ digital tool! We have been trying to increase use of our departmental Google+ Communities page. I had set up several sub-pages for our various discipline specialisations, social events, teaching and learning, and also departmental business/agenda items. I would really like to develop the idea of the ‘flipped’ meeting so that when we do meet face to face we have already been working on various agenda items rather than trying to cover all business in our monthly slot together. However from just using our iPads/iPhones yesterday it looks like we can’t view these separate pages which just doesn’t seem right. It isn’t intuitive (to me) how to view these but is quite necessary if we are to more fully adopt the Community space for departmental development work.

We also spoke about the challenges for admin staff to have to create a Google doc from a Word doc if we are to post such things as agendas, minutes and other Word documents. At the moment these are having to be copied into a Google Doc and the formatting is often lost. This is taking up a lot of time at the moment, especially when the formatting of tables, for instance, don’t accurately carry over into the Google Doc. We need to streamline this process! At the moment minutes etc are also loaded on the university’s ‘I-Drive’ for communal viewing and so we may need to think about whether we create Google Docs from the start and store on Google Drive. Again these nuts and bolts issues are things which may well have very easy solutions but we may need to seek outside advice so that we don’t spend too much time trying to figure out how to save time! In saying that the process of ‘working things out’, although not always conducive with tight timeframes and deadlines, is often the best way to learn and it seems that as a digital group, we all seem comfortable with having these unanswered questions and having a go to find solutions. The reality will be though, that sometimes the ‘solution’ will be input from Thom or Vickel (our AUT digital superheros!)

I also shared my enthusiasm for WordPress and how I have enjoyed reflecting on my introduction to various technologies but also on the impact of Communities of Practice; the associated benefits from sharing experiences with others and learning with and from them. Next week we’re going to look at blogs, and WordPress in more depth, and possibly consider the way we could document and reflect on our departmental digital developments as part of our own personal professional development but also as a group. Reflection is always an end in itself but documenting our reflections and ideas could also be a catalyst for a collective article or conference presentation.

There is an initiative from Cath, our HoD for us all to have a mobile device and we’re getting an Apple TV for our meeting room so these additions will go a long way to helping us connect with the digital world and to become learners and doers which will certainly hold us in good stead for  being able to equip our students with the skills and capabilities to face the changing world. For me though, the potential lies in the ability of mobile devices to connect us as people; to learn more about one another and to create new digital spaces for us to cohabit.