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


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.


#mosomelt Creating and connecting – sharing digitally based practices within my department

Colleagues in my department (Department of Public Health @ AUT) have been very interested in what I’ve been learning through mosomelt. Some of them have been working with Vickel to establish a Google+ Community in their class and it may be that others have quietly been using other tools behind the scenes.

Participating in mosomelt with my colleague Kate D has not only been an invaluable experience for us but has begun to spark interest within the wider department. Change and the mere act of thinking about change is not an overnight process and certainly one of the things we’ve enjoyed is having the time to learn across quite a long period of time, rather than just attending a one-off workshop.

I think there is now sufficient interest among colleagues to share some of what we have been learning. Our undergraduate programme is taught over 2 campuses and some of our larger papers no longer have distinct tutorial time so there is an opportunity to consider how we can embrace digital teaching and learning tools that will not only help us overcome the logistical  challenges of teaching but primarily so that we can enhance the learning experiences of those we teach – and the experience of the teachers themselves!

Those who are free and have an interest in these factors are going to start to meet to think about how we can introduce digital technologies, what purpose would they serve and to try things out as a group.

Given that several in the department have used or are using Google+ Communities I set up a Community for our department and have, over the past few months, tried to encourage others to join and I’ve started to post things of interest.

I’ve set up different pages for each of our areas of teaching plus additional pages for Learning & Teaching, Research, Social Event and Meeting-based business.

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One idea I have is that as a group we could create a ‘flipped’ meeting style whereby we could post our departmental meeting agenda and associated material on the Community and staff members could be accessing this and contributing to online posts in relation to the agenda items so that some decisions could be made within the Google+ Community space, while other items would have least already had input and online discussion prior to meeting face to face. I feel that this would be worth experimenting with, especially given that we are spread over two campuses and online text or hangout discussions could be of greater quality and effectiveness than our current teleconferenced monthly meetings.

Another idea that I’m hoping I can encourage others to have a go at is setting up a reflective blog as I’ve found that a very positive experience. Not only does it contribute to ongoing professional development through reflective practice but also can be utilised within the collective group as the basis for a shared piece of reflective research documenting our digital journey.

Bambuser- putting it into practice as a teaching tool

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It’s hard to believe that it is a month since I was first introduced to Bambuser and it is only now that I have had the time and opportunity to use it in my teaching as a very small part of my online ethics paper.

Students are always anxious about assessments. I think the wider education system creates this anxiety and at times I think some of the real learning is lost when the students are so preoccupied with what will be assessed and what is expected of them.

I think anxiety is possibly elevated in my paper as I sit outside their disciplines so the paper may feel like it is from ‘the outside’ and I certainly think some of the ideas I discuss and ways of thinking are not familiar to them. Ethics is about a sense of uncomfortableness. It is that experience that alerts us to there being an ethical issue. Practice is not black and white, despite the numerous best practice guidelines and so ethics education is, in part, about getting used to that sense of unease with the situation one is faced with and developing tools for justifying one’s decisions.

So an uncomfortable subject area and anxiety around assessments led me to consider how I could address these issues using digital technology.

Bambuser enables my students to ‘see’ me as if I was talking to them in class and enables me to just talk about the assessment in a way that I hope addressing the key points required of the students but also in a way that helps them connect with me as the lecturer.

Bambuser is very easy to use, although I notice that when the internet is running a bit slow as is often the case at our house and even relatively often in our building at work, it will sometimes time out while trying to load a video. This is slightly frustrating and I wonder if this impacts on students who live in areas where the connection is not great. It can also be a bit slow to load, again this just might be my experience, but for those trying to get to grips with new tolls I wonder if students will assume it is not working, rather than being patient. These are operational issues that I need to test out further.

So…here is my first Bambuser made for my students- A overview of the first assessment: http://bambuser.com/v/5703566

Interestingly after one week it has had 56 views (am sure only 2 are mine!). My class roll is 129 so a little under half have accessed…or fewer than that but they’ve watched multiple times…or people unrelated to the paper may have found it…but I doubt that is the case.

Given students queries about the assessment and the emails I’m still receiving about the assessment I’m wondering why more haven’t watched the clip. It may be that they will closer to the submission date given that they are all free to move through the course material in their own time and so will have various time management strategies in place (or none in some cases!). It’ll be interesting to see if more people do view it. I’ll also be interested in finding out to what extent it helped their assessment preparation or contributed to their online learning experience.

One student has written to me with some nice feedback which is encouraging 🙂

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