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Accreditation where Accreditation is due

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Why do humans like their achievements acknowledged by a bit of paper? I may be making a generalisation but I am assuming, based on observation and discussions over time, that this applies to a lot of people.

I started pondering this whilst waiting for my certificate for the Internet History Technology and Security MOOC I recently completed. I loved the course, learnt lots and am no doubt enriched for the experience. And yet I am sat here waiting for a bit of paper. I am also fairly certain I would feel a great sense of disappointment should I not get my certificate. Obviously I would get over it but there would none the less be a sense of short term deprivation.

I noticed, and have discussed this, in my recent Open Learning MOOC provided by the Open University. The Open University used a system of Mozilla Open Badges which is “a new online standard to recognise and verify learning”.

To me this was a step up from certificates! Online digital badges that you can take with you and add to whatever platforms you use. As soon as I achieved them they went straight on my blog. I am not by nature a show off but I had no qualms about pasting these all over my blog!

There has been been lots of debate about MOOCs and accreditation. Some people say it’s one of the critical factors for MOOC Survival whilst others aren’t so sure

Maybe it comes from years of being in an institution that tells you that achievement is measured by results which have to be backed up by a certificate. Schools drum it into us that we have to attain certain levels, sit an exam to prove it and then wait for a bit of paper to tell us and others what we have achieved. Although I have only taken courses that offer statements of accomplishments I wouldn’t be put off doing a course because it didn’t offer one. I am doing it for the learning experience, the connections and to strengthen my personal learning network. The certificate is the icing on the cake and something to add to my CV.

I suppose certificates and badges are a bit like photographs. You don’t need a photo to tell you had a good time (or in the case of a course, learnt something) but it is nice to have a physical reminder and sometimes you might want to share it with someone.

In the meantime I continue to wait for my certificate…………

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24 Hour Walk Round The Island – Update

We set off from West Cowes at 4am at a 4mph pace which didn’t really ease off until 4 hours later in Yarmouth.

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Nearing Yarmouth

My plan was of course to complete the whole 73 miles. However, I knew that this was a bit unrealistic. My average comfortable walking distance is about 25 miles so it’s a big leap.

Anyway, I didn’t complete it because of bad feet and I felt very disappointed at first. I have had time to reflect and feel less bad about not completing. I did 32 miles which is about 5 or 6 miles more than last year, at least it’s heading in the right direction.

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This sight was a real moral boost

It has spurred me into action and I need to start planning more regular long distance walks. I walk every day as we don’t drive but this is usually only 1-3 miles a day. I have also been toying with the idea of running for a while but lack the confidence. I think planning for the next big walk will give me the boost I need.

What I am proud of is being part of a great walking team. We do all sorts of walks and we have become good friends. As well as walking we have some laughs, great conversations, food and beer.

Here’s to the next walk!

24 Hour Walk Round the Isle of Wight

I am getting ready to walk round the Isle of Wight on Saturday. We start at 4am and end on Sunday at 4am and we will walk a total of 73 miles.

I have a back pack stuffed full of sweet and salty foods as well as the contents of a small pharmacy!

Very excited and very scared. I tried this last year and only managed about 26 miles. I would really like to complete it and my age is right. I have just turned 37 so walking 73 miles seems fitting!

Anyway off to bed in preparation for the early start. If no more entries appear I am lost somewhere on the Island. Send help. And food!

Blog for the Isle of Wight Long Distance Association where you can read more about the walk as well as other walks we do.

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Humanising Leadership

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Image courtesy of Deb and Dave and FD Toys

“Leadership is not so much about technique and methods as it is about opening the heart. Leadership is about inspiration—of oneself and of others. Great leadership is about human experiences, not processes. Leadership is not a formula or a program, it is a human activity that comes from the heart and considers the hearts of others. It is an attitude, not a routine.”

— Lance Secretan, Industry Week, October 12, 1998

I havent blogged for a while as felt a bit blogged out towards the end of my previous 3 MOOCs. I have now had a couple of weeks down time and enjoyed some good walks. I have also started 2 new MOOCs, Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence and Introduction to Psychology.

The start to the ILEI course has been fascinating as I have been forced to think about previous leaders I have worked with, but it has also made me think about how I come across to people.

But what makes a great leader?

According to the course professor, Richard Boyatzis;

The best leaders build or rebuild resonant relationships. These are relationships in which the leader is in tune with or in sync with the people around him or her.

Furthermore

outstanding leaders know that the music of leadership is emotions. And that people who are really good at leadership are able to help inspire, and help us manage our emotions in the process.

We then went on to learn about the 3 categories of competencies that need to be fulfilled in order to be an effective leader, social (concerns your relationships with people around you) emotional (being aware of your own emotions and how to manage them) and cognitive (basically concerns how you view and make sense of the world around you).

What you may notice about everything so far is how big a factor emotions and relationships play in this field. I wasn’t surprised that emotions play a role, I have worked with enough ineffective leaders who just weren’t ‘people’ people, but I was surprised at just how big a part they play. When I first started in the world of work, and with little experience, I alway put “people skills” on my CV because I thought it sounded good and I could blag it in an interview, something I couldn’t do with a “tangible” skill. People skills was then considered to be a “soft” skill. Something that mainly women possessed and particularly those working in the customer services industry.

It is only with experience that you realise how a leader can make or break an organisation and make individuals feel about themselves. In years gone by qualities such as ruthlessness, emotionless, toughness, cognitive intelligence, powerfulness were considered to be good qualities for a leader. Thankfully this is changing (slowly in some industries) and I found this article in Forbes interesting. Notice how many of the qualities could be considered “soft”; honesty, sense of humour, communication, creativity, intuition and a positive attitude. You may not agree with all the qualities, or consider others to be more important, but there is no escaping the fact that what is considered to be good qualities for leaders is changing.

I look forward to learning more about this subject and, hopefully, myself and my colleagues in the process. However, age is a great teacher and I have come to realise that it is the little things that have the biggest impacts. As an effective leader we don’t need some grandiose gesture or successfully conquer the world (although if you do succeed at this please use your new found power wisely and kindly), it’s the little things that count. This Ted talk by Drew Dudley sums it up for me.

Learning about Learning

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I can’t believe this course is over and thank you Deborah L Gabriel for telling me about it and inviting me to the G+ Open Education community.

For the final activity we had to create a video or use another tool (avoiding just plain text) and reflect on what we have learned in this course, covering one of the following elements:
What aspect of openness in education interests you most (and why)?
What the future direction of open education will be in your opinion, justifying your answer.
Your experience of studying an open course versus traditional, formal education.

For me, it was interesting to find out that traditional academic literature and debate is being produced on open education. I had taken a number of MOOCs and read articles about the whole phenomenon, but I had never realised that it was starting to become “mainstream”.

The aspect of openness that interests me the most is it’s connection to social media and online communities. I like the idea of people being responsible for their own learning and I would love to see this developed in high schools. I have already talked about my feelings on how important online communities are for support, PLN and learning. I think open learning is exactly what social media was made for. Open learning and social media foster creativity, connectiveness, collaboration, and a love for learning.

I don’t think open learning will be a disruptive technology for a little while time, but I think it will start to be woven into the fabric of traditional education. I also think it will begin with higher education and high schools will eventually follow.

Schools and educational institutions are already realising the importance of open education and social media. I have seen an increase in the use of Twitter and Facebook for learning as well as blogging, Skyping and students being allowed to collaborate on projects. The human race is changing in many ways and the way we learn is one of them. Can you imagine sitting in a class of 40+ learning facts by rote and spending the day reciting them back at the teacher? As an adult learner you wouldn’t return and as a child you would most likely disengage and stay that way. But it wasn’t so long ago that this was normal. As technology and the world around us changes surely our brains and methods for processing information also changes. I blogged about this after reading an article about the possibility of Google making us stupid. Education is becoming open in so many ways. Not only through the use of technology and social media but also through efforts to engage learners and recognising that there are different ways to do this. Technology and social media is one of the main drivers for this change.

I consider myself as a born again learner. I used to love learning stuff when I was younger and was a voracious reader. I used to like making my own skin creams using natural ingredients, drawing the human skeleton from books, learning about animals from documentaries, about nature when on walks on the beach or countryside, cooking from recipes, and picking up bits of a language when on holiday abroad. But I didn’t really like school (apart from art and sport). I hated maths, grammar, standing up in class and cramming for exams. This Ted talk by Ken Robinson sums it up for me.

This paper, The Traditional University is Dead: Long Live the Distributed University, by Steve Wheeler makes for interesting reading and I agree with the section on the “regurgitation” of information.
For me, open learning is giving me the chance to learn in a way that works for me combining formal with creative learning. I listen to lectures and complete assignments and I like the formal structure which includes deadlines. But I can get my creativity fix by joining online communities, writing blogs and creating and maintaining a supportive and dynamic personal learning network. It’s like a two tier learning system, each tier complementing and supporting the other. This form of rhizomatic learning is something we looked at as part of the course and I have also previously blogged about it.

I personally feel that open learning will continue to grow and start to form part of a new approach to education (not sure if that will happen in my lifetime but at some point). What is crucial is how open education is managed. We need to make sure that it stays open and free/affordable where possible. It has to ensure that it doesn’t become too “mainstream”. I don’t mean this in terms of being available to all but in that it doesn’t try to become what our current education system is today. We can’t afford to lose the ethos of the early days of open learning. I have included a link to my Prezi presentation, Openness in Education. I learnt about Prezi from someone on my online leaning community! Thank you to the Open University for providing this course and to the G+ and Blogging community that took the time to read and comment on my activities. I enjoyed reading, and learnt from, all the posts and blogs I read, so thanks for sharing.

Open learner literacies – activity 24

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For the final activity this week we were first asked to read Helen Beetham’s Review and Scoping Study for a cross-JISC Learning and Digital Literacies Programme: Sept 2010

Secondly we had to draw up a set of open learner literacies.
“These should be based on what you have experienced and researched so far in this course. They should cover the types of skill you feel are important for an individual to learn successfully in an open learning context (whether that is using OER, in a MOOC or through informal, lifelong learning).”

The number of skills is up to you, although they should cover most of what you feel is important in being an effective open learner. Each literacy should be accompanied by some explanation and justification.
Blog your list of literacies and look at those suggested by others. You should reflect upon the following:

Are there literacies that are particularly related to the open element, or would your list apply to all learners?
Did you find literacies suggested by others that you would like to add?
If these are important literacies, how would you go about developing them for learners?

In the paper digital literacy is described as

those capabilities which fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society

I am using my own MOOC journey as a the basis of what, I think, are the digital literacies you need for the world of open learning.

Openness
I mean this in terms of openness to learning. Openness to trying new things. Openness to meeting new people. Openness to trying new ways of thinking. In fact openness to everything. Since doing MOOCs have tried lots of new applications and technologies. I don’t necessarily have to keep using them but I need to be aware of them and try them. Some of this is down to confidence but it also rests on how we may have learnt at school. Traditional schooling doesn’t always encourage openness, although this is changing. Much of what we did was based on individual attainment and what your results were and what you achieved. This is great but doesn’t always encourage openness and a willingness to share hard earned knowledge. I think traditionally there was an attitude of “I found it out and studied for it. If they want to find out they need to do themselves”.

Collaboration and community
I think at some stage in your learning journey you need to collaborate in some respect. You may totally embrace it or you may just do the bare minimum but at some point you will have to learn to work collaboratively. Learning within a community such as G+ and Facebook can also take some getting used to. Collaborating and contributing to communities is vital for your own learning but also to others. You are adding to resources already out there which makes it similar to a bartering community.

Research, skim reading and critical decision making
This is crucial as the amount of information can be overwhelming. At the start of my journey I was trying to read everything but there isn’t enough time and not everything is relevant or of sufficient quality. You need to find a way of running your eyes over something and make a decision, to keep reading or move on. In his blog Wayne Barry calls it critical filtering which I think is a perfect description. On a daily basis I come across stuff that isn’t relevant to what I am doing there and then, but I want to read later. Thanks to a fellow MOOCer I discovered Pearltrees which allows me to save information for when I have time.

Reciprocal learning
Having the confidence to offer your opinions and sharing your work. This was, and occasionally still is, my weak point. When I first had to create a blog I thought “who’s going to be remotely interested in what I have to say”? I have no formal qualifications on the subjects I was blogging about. The same problem with Twitter. What would I Tweet about and who would listen to little ole me”? My heart still does a little skip when someone comments on something I have blogged.

Most of the above should be applicable to both open and traditional types of learners but some literacies are stronger or work in slightly different ways since the emergence of social media. Take collaboration for example. Learners have always worked with their peers but now we are digital it has been taken to a completely different level. Since doing MOOCs I have collaborated with people from all over the world and at a more rapid pace. The scope is almost limitless.

For me the biggest change is that of reciprocal learning. Again this is something that also happens in traditional learning. Students speak to each other, recommend books, form study groups etc. However, technology has transformed this, particularly in open learning. With the rise in blogging, social media, Google Hangouts etc more of us are “publishing” and reading the posts of other students as well as “qualified” academics. In essence we are all educators as well being educated.

A lot of these digital skills are already being used by people when they are socialising using social media or sat in a circle of friends chatting. What a lot of people don’t realise is how easy it is to transfer this to learning. One of the big barriers is confidence but this can be overcome with experience and the support you get from online communities. What is really exciting is that the skills learned online can be transferred to the “real world” so digital literacies shouldn’t be seen as exclusive to this realm.

Open Technologies – Activity 22

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Image by Kathleen Donovan

Write a short blog post suggesting one additional technology that is important for open education, either from the role of a learner or a provider. The technology can be one that has been significant, or one that you feel is going to become increasingly relevant.
What you include as a technology can be quite broad: for instance, it can be a general category (such as social networks), a specific service or a particular standard.
In your post briefly explain what the technology is, and then why you think it is important for open education. The emphasis should be on open education in particular, and not just education in general.

Personally I would choose social media as it has become my PLN (personal learning network) and an important way of getting and receiving support. Wikipedia defines social media as

the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.

There are many examples of social media, Facebook and Twitter for example, both of which I use. But for me G+ has become the most important and, I think, is perfect for open education. I find G+ to be a friendlier more supportive version of Facebook. I am a member of a couple of G+ communities created by students on MOOCs I am studying, and have created one myself. The Human-Computer Interaction MOOC community now has 365 members and is essential for asking questions about the course and assignments, providing additional resources and supporting each other. To me it is the common room at my old university where I spent time socialising with fellow students and working together on assignments or projects. Google hangouts give you the opportunity to speak “face to face” with colleagues.

This online network also helps me stick with my courses. I have taken about 10 so far and dropped out of two. Both of those involved courses where I wasn’t a member of any online community (from searches I made I couldn’t even see that there was one) and I didn’t have the sense of connection I normally had. Being part of these communities gives you a sense of belonging and I also had a feeling that I would be letting my peers down if I simply dropped out. Being part of a community also makes me feel that I have invested more and makes me think twice about dropping out. Given that MOOCs report such a high rate of students “dropping out” maybe this is a way of keeping more students engaged?

Some MOOCs have 50,000+ students enrolling on their courses. Admittedly the numbers do reduce as a course continues, but the numbers are still too high for one professor and a handful of teaching assistants to support students. Online communities can help as someone will always have the answer, and given its global appeal, 24 hours a day.

Online communities provide me with additional reading and links to useful and interesting sources of information. It means that when I log in each time I don’t know where my learning will take me.

To me online communities are what your tutors and peers were at college or university. You went to the lecture and did the exams. Meeting with other students and your tutor was not only essential but enhanced the experience.

OER Understanding

MOOC Understanding

Open Education Completed

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