Australia/New Zealand Week One: CANBERRA

I’m writing post in the air (on a chair!) between Australia and New Zealand, where I’m spending nearly six weeks hopping about due to a mix various speaking engagements (seminars, keynotes etc.), and co-delivering hands-on workshops which will mean finally working alongside (yes, as in face-to-face!) some of the people with whom I’ve been collaborating over the past three years. It’s a fantastic opportunity both to share practice with, and learn from others, so in terms of personal development I’m expecting to return to the UK with a much deeper appreciation of learning/curriculum innovation and institutional change elsewhere. The first stop was the Australian capital, where I’ve spent the past week at the University of Canberra and (a last minute addition) the Australian National University, working with staff to explore possibilities for new ways of learning and teaching through social and mobile technologies.

Canberra

It’s been a fantastic experience so far, and I’m blown away by the talent involved in #ucsaffire – the University of Canberra’s campus-wide project which aims to remodel learning and teaching across disciplines and faculties through integration of digital literacies and pedagogies. The #ucsaffire team come from a diverse range of backgrounds, and between them they cover pretty much everything you’d want in a Teaching and Learning Centre (and then some), including some cutting-edge AR work, an award-winning cinematographer and an amazing woman who alongside specialising in interactive/digital performance has also hitched her way around the world on yachts… (Cynthia, next time I’m coming too! 😉

It’s been a most thought-provoking, challenging and rewarding experience exploring current (and future) practice over here, and I’m genuinely excited about the possibilities for learning and teaching at the University of Canberra, which closely parallels Salford in many ways – so I’ve found myself drawing on not only my own personal experiences, but also the drivers behind learning innovation at my home institution. I look forward to maintaining our relationship virtually as both a critical friend and an ardent supporter of #ucsaffire now that this week has come to an end.

Before sharing some goodbye drinks at the end of the day on Friday (Jean *waves*!), I was whisked over to the Australian National University to present to staff there, and again was heartened by the openness and the attitude towards experimentation with emerging (and in this case, risky) pedagogies. Again, I look forward to keeping in contact and sharing experiences in relation to curriculum design – in this case we were specifically considering simulations and alternate realities in the legal disciplines. Exciting stuff!

It’s not been too bad working in opposite time-zones, as I’m able to do ‘Salford work’ in the early mornings and evenings, with ‘Oz work’ in between. More than ever, I’m appreciating Instagram for ambient social connectivity, and I love being able to stay connected with students back on home turf through photo-sharing – in fact, I’ve found myself referring to Instagram on many occasion this week, as a platform that both academics and learners are using in unanticipated ways to share knowledge and sustain connections over time and space…

Thank you to everybody I’ve met, talked at and talked with this week. You’ve all been wonderful (and a special thanks to Jonathan Powles for inviting me over in the first place and Traci Ward who has looked after me every step of the way), and I’m leaving Canberra feeling rather excited about the road ahead. I probably say this way too much but I’m going to have to say it again…

#ilovemyjob

(pics on Flickr)

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A new academic year: global, connected, creative – and not (quite) a MOOC

So, teaching starts next week – and yes, I’m excited. Been working on a new MSc module that will essentially be more of a class research project looking based around Spreadable Media (challenging the notion of ‘virality’ following Henry Jenkins et. al.). I think it could be a great way to be both hands-on creative and scholarly in approach, and for learners to develop a really deep understanding of networks, audience, culture – and of course, the social web.

However, semester 2 is going to be full-on in terms of teaching. I’ll have around 100 students on the Social Tech module, and there are so many things I want to do, amazing connections and projects to pursue – old and new – and it’s really exciting but also rather overwhelming. Having to wave goodbye to the possibility of being able to regularly engage with, and comment on, student blogs is quite a wrench (although in all honesty, following 70+ last semester really stretched me to the max…).

SO, I want to carry on developing our current model-which-has-no-name. I’m not sure what it is – it’s not a MOOC, but it’s certainly pretty open, multi-disciplinary, multi-level and networked, and builds on existing communities of practice and the mentoring that has emerged over the past 6 years (staff and ex-students -> current students). Most importantly, it’s creative, occasionally anarchic and relatively ad hoc (it would be wrong to not give a shout out to #ds106 at this point – #DS106!) – which is probably the best way to describe the way things work with our Social Tech modules…

For the past couple of years I’ve been working with @thomcochrane @mediendidaktik @marett @MaxMobile and a whole host of other people around the globe in a community of practice where we’ve had our students working together on creative social tech projects that cross disciplines, levels, time and space. I wrote about one of them here. However, to work on several international collaborations (which are essentially modules in themselves) at one time with 100 learners – hmm. Quite the challenge, unless I change the way I do things…

One of the difficulties when working on these types of projects is not so much navigating the timezones (although very early-morning/late-night hangouts when working on a few of these projects at a time does lead to a sensation of permanent jetlag…), but the staggered semester dates. However, we’ve decided to re-frame this, and so we’re now looking at the ‘tag-team model’ of education: the projects never end, as there is always a cohort to carry on, and lead into the next group, and when they overlap that’s great – that’s where the genuine collaboration happens.

I was recently most heartened to read about Anne Balsamo’s new DOCC: (Distributed Online Collaborative Course) – a project that ‘uses technology to enable interdisciplinary and international conversation while privileging situated diversity and networked agency.’ I’m a huge fan of Anne’s work (reviewed her book ‘Designing Culture’ last year, and have been recommending it to anybody with ANY kind of interest in interdisciplinarity ever since). This is the kind of model that I’m moving towards – globally connected, but with each cohort grounded with their respective institution (accreditation, QA, etc. etc.)

Alongside this, one of the (many) magical moments of 2012 was when some students who weren’t involved in ELVSS (the international mobile film collaborations) approached me at the end of July (yes, the SUMMER HOLIDAYS) with a brilliant idea for a film which required them to be paired up with ELVSS students in New Zealand – they set up a Google Doc, threw ideas around, and filming will start soon. Bear in mind, this is purely interest/passion-driven, nothing to do with an assessed module, but a genuine desire to create with people across the globe. This is the way I want things to go.

Traditionally, we deliver modules/courses, neatly chunked into 12 weeks, with units of assessment, leading to grades etc. and that’s the way things are (generally) done. I’m not saying scrap all of that, but I do think that modules are best served as springboards to other things. Increasingly, students are connecting across levels and cohorts through Twitter and now we have ex-students getting together with current students, undergrads coming to postgrad classes (and vice versa) as they’ve connected online and have a genuine interest in getting involved in other groups/further curricula outside of their taught modules (must give another shout-out to @ugfl and @watersidestudio at this point!). Obviously hashtags play a huge role in developing connections in this learning ecosystem, but it’s this move towards interest-driven projects, facilitated by network connections that really excites me.

So, the final – possibly serendipitous – piece of jigsaw (time will tell) was tonight’s Google Hangout with @courosa, @cogdog and others to talk about the #etmooc that Alec wants to set-up/explore. This was an initial meeting where we threw ideas around, and I must say it was great meeting Lenandlar Singh, who is a MOOC aficionado (as a student) and getting his perspective, alongside Valeria Lopes and @seani – always great to meet new people ☺.

Whether or not this goes anywhere (i’m sure Alec will make it work – he’s the ultimate networked teacher – i’m just not sure i’ll be able to be involved long-term due to all these other projects), it was a great convo, and I went away feeling excited by the possibilities of developing MOOC-like initiatives that aren’t really MOOCs – which is when we started talking about ‘un-moocs’. Alec went straight off and registered several ‘unmooc’ domains, and it all feels rather exciting…

Increasingly, educators are connecting; networks grow and overlap; we’re connecting diverse groups of students across the globe through both ad-hoc informal projects, and more formal approaches where they are assessed/accredited by their own institutions while working together on a common brief. It’s exciting and potentially rather messy.

I’d really love to know what you think – is it practical? How to cope with multiple projects where (for example) G+ hangouts at all hours of day and night are integral to the experience? Should we set up an informal ‘swap shop’ where our students can take courses from elsewhere, but are assessed from their home institution? For instance, I can easily imagine some kind of ‘virtual exchange’ with #ds106. But the burning question for me is: what the hell is this, and does it even need to have a name?

The Paradox of Openness: The High Costs of Giving Online

At this year’s ALT-C conference, I’ll be contributing to a symposium session along with Frances Bell, Josie Fraser and Richard Hall. In our session, The Paradox of Openness: The High Costs of Giving Online, we will pose a range of issues for debate, provoking participants to reconsider the costs of participation online, openness, and the sharing of resources. I’ll be focusing practice-based scenarios based on the publishing and sharing of digital artefacts that highlight areas of uncertainty, risk and the personal cost of openness. In this post, i’m exploring ideas around:

The Tyranny of Authenticity (identity) Continue reading

ALT-C 2010: Personal highlights

A 4am start the morning after the ALT-C Gala Dinner isn’t what i’d have hoped for (on the way to another event), but on the plus side it does mean there’s some time for bleary-eyed train reflection on what has been a fantastic conference…

ALT-C montage

Where to begin? Well, I could start with Donald Clark’s provocative opening keynote, which certainly caused a bit of a stir. It must be disconcerting for a speaker to visit a conference hashtag (or ‘harshtag’) and realise that they haven’t been received quite so warmly as they may have hoped – brings to mind danah boyd’s heartwrenching post about her experiences at Web 2.0 expo, although i’m guessing the ALT-C crowd would empathise with danah, and bar the immediacy of the twitter back-channel (which wasn’t shown on the screen during the ALT-C keynote) the Web 2.0 expo/ALT-C audiences probably had different expectations and experiences of the speaker’s overall thesis. Luckily the other keynotes didn’t suffer the same fate, including our very own Salford Vice Chancellor Martin Hall, who really impressed the audience with his realistic and informed perspective on new technologies, the codification of knowledge and what this might mean for formal university education.

Continue reading

The PLE Conference

The PLE Conference (Barcelona, July 8+9 2010) is intended to produce a space for researchers and practitioners to exchange ideas, experience and research around the development and implementation of PLEs including the design of environments, sociological and educational issues and their effectiveness and desirability as (informal) learning spaces. Continue reading

Tidying up my digital identity

Earlier this week I was asked to present on a Digital Identity panel hosted by Oxford Brookes University, alongside Josie Fraser, George Roberts and Patsy Clarke. The panel session focused on ‘Protecting and reflecting yourself online, issues of responsibility, trust and control’ and the presentations were as follows:

  • Josie Fraser – The contemporary privacy debate; “friending” your students
  • Helen Keegan – The evolution of a personal professional identity
  • George Roberts – Conflated meanings at the institutional (and demonic) level
  • Patsy Clarke – publicly private and privately public

I was asked to discuss multiple identities and representations, exploring identity play and the interactive tensions between individual and community. Continue reading