Connecting, Curating and Contemplating

A picture of the pier at Glenelg, South Australia. Taken by Paul Goldacre at the Ascilite 2016 Conference and shared on Twitter.

Introduction

I have participated remotely in two conferences in the last two weeks.

Last week it was Ascilite2016.

This week it was Moodleposium2016.

I followed both conferences from my home in rural New South Wales. My proximity to the local telephone exchange means that I can access an ADSL2+ service.

There is a lot of discussion in my town, Braidwood, about the enormous opportunities the National Broadband Network (NBN) could bring to the quality of people’s lives and to new business practices. We hope to be connected but at the moment …

This is a message received from the NBN. "The rollout has not started in your area."

My experiences of the two conferences have encouraged me to think about:

  • Connectivity
  • Connecting expertise
  • Curation

and the opportunities we have for #prosocial, accessible sharing.

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Connectivity

A day after Moodleposium 2016, wrote about “equitable access to broadband” in a Conversation post. Thas points out “There is a significant divergence in the nature and availability of communication and internet services for regional Australia” and draws attention to the emergence of a Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition.

Thas concludes his post with these observations:

it is imperative to ensure regional Australia is empowered through programs focused on digital capacity building.

This should include skills development, assistance to access new technologies and support …

Our area has vibrant schools, a community of home schoolers, a multi-purpose health service, a strong arts community, and resilient rural businesses. One of the town’s entrepreneurs is building a multi-media rich facility to support educational technology projects. All of these groups will flourish with NBN connectivity.

Connecting Expertise

I keep being surprised by the rich diversity of practice that is shared at Ascilite and Moodleposium. My curation of both conferences runs to 150 pages of Google Docs.

I used Twitter as my primary source of activities at the event. I followed the #ascilite2016 and #mpos16 links.

The appearance of Mastodon has encouraged me to think about other channels too.

I am keen to provide a curation of conferences to help me learn more about and reflect on practice. It is my contribution to a process that involves aggregation, remixing, re-purposing and feeding forward (Stephen Downes, 2011).

Emily Rutherford and Jennifer Smith at the closing ceremony for Moodleposium 2016

Accessibility

Ross Mullen discussed accessibility at the Moodleposium. His abstract includes this description:

The presentation will explain what web content accessibility guidelines version 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) is, the types of disabilities a user may have and how those users navigate with assistive technology. By understanding the fundamentals of inclusive design practices with web accessibility will enabled content designers to begin to design more accessible content. We discuss the most common web accessibility pitfalls and how to fix them and how to check your own work is accessible using free online tools.

Ross works at Canaxess in Canberra. Canaxess is “an Australian based web accessibility agency who believe accessibility is not just about compliance, but giving the best possible experience to the end user”.

The WCAG 2.0 Guidelines have been available for as long as I have been posting on Clyde Street and I have done nothing about accessibility. I have read the guidelines now and have followed up on the WebAIM website.

As I followed Ross’s presentation online, I was reminded of Ellen Kuzwayo‘s observation that each form of discrimination brings its own form of discrimination.

Contemplation

My efforts to curate two conferences for personal and shared reflection have given me new opportunities to reflect on connectivism and communities of practice. In addition to the joy of finding such diverse activities at the conferences, Ross has given me a profound moment of clarity about how I might share in a different kind of way.

Photo Credits

Glenelg (Paul Golacre, Twitter)

Mercedes Bends and Altruism Rules (Newtown Grafitti, CC BY 2.0)

Emily Rutherford and Jennifer Smith (Katie Freund, Twitter)

Postscript

This is my first post on Clyde Street that explicitly addresses accessibility issues. I installed WordPress 4.7 and then added the TinyMCE Advanced plugin.

This gives me the opportunity (without coding or scripts) to use a sans serif font (Verdana) and to specify the size of font (14pt). I have included Headings too.

The three pictures in the post have an ALT Text description.

The hyperlink default in this WordPress theme is for urls to be underlined but to remain as black text.

I am going to share this with Ross to seek his views.

ePortfolios, Pedagogy and Personal Flourishing

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Introduction

Ontario’s Distance Education and Training Network has published a review of how Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are influencing teaching and learning.

One of the impacts the paper identifies is the support for the development of learning portfolios. Stephen Downes’ review of the paper draws attention to this quote:

MOOCs showcase the developments which online learning and other innovations have been encouraging for some time: they are not so much initiating these developments as acting as an accelerant for them.

The Ontario paper appeared just as students in the Master in High Performance Sport at the University of Canberra were submitting their first round of ePortfolios for formative assessment in the Sport Informatics and Analytics unit.

ePortfolios and Personal Learning

The students submitting their ePortfolios at the University Canberra are following an OERu course in Sport Informatics and Analytics. This has evolved from an open online course, #UCSIA15, that ran for four weeks in 2015.

Information about the 2016 OERu course includes this page on ePortfolios as assessment. There is a background resource to support them as well.

The 2016 cohort of students in Canberra is guided by Jocelyn Mara. They are being encouraged to embrace the messiness of personal learning and explore how reflection might act as a catalyst for their own learning and understanding.

This messiness includes fallibility in constructing the ePortfolio. We have encouraged our students to choose a platform that suits them from a range of choices that includes the University’s instance of Mahara.

The Class of 2016

There are eight students in the 2016 course.

Cheyanne Girvan has chosen WordPress as a platform

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Michael Sydney is using Wix

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Nathan McConchie has decided upon Mahara’s Foliospaces.

Rob Palmer, Chris McPhail, Anthony Pierobon, and Adam Wright  are using Mahara.

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Annie Gallacher has chosen one of my favourite platforms, Google Sites.

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Learning is what we do to ourselves

I am delighted with the diversity of these ePortfolios. They are windows into the thought worlds of each student and offer opportunities to engage in conversations about learning with each other.

The students have a second formative assessment point in this course and at the end of the semester will present their ePortfolios for summative assessment. Jocelyn’s role as their guide, and meddler, is to nourish these explorations in a course that is designed as a non-linear, self-directed learning journey.

I am hopeful that their engagement with this approach will transform their experiences as learners. I do find the process of creating an ePortfolio disturbing in the best sense of the word … that is, an invitation to be an agent in one’s own learning.

Photo Credit

Bondi Icebergs (Winam, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Treasure Trove

Introduction

Last week was another treasure trove week for me. It started with my daughter Beth’s first blog post and concluded with news of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) running at present.

Treasure Baskets

Beth’s post about treasure baskets set me off thinking about the possibilities of guided discovery in play. I thought too about the personalisation that might occur in learning as teachers and coaches adapt the idea of a treasure basket to their own learning environments. A treasure basket is a collection of everyday objects chosen to stimulate the different senses. I followed up on Beth’s discussion of the role the basket has in heuristic play.

Elaine Lambe notes that heuristic play “is the term used to describe play for babies, infants and toddlers that actively encourages exploration by using and developing their senses.” As with all treasure troves one discovery leads to another and through Elaine’s post I found Elinor Goldschmied‘s work. Valerie Jackson has provided a great insight into Elinor’s work. I liked Valerie’s observation that:

Elinor understood the importance of accepting every child as a unique and gifted individual. She didn’t waste time trying to categorise or label children as having special needs, additional needs or anything else. They were all children and we were all the people tasked with the responsibility to encourage and raise good citizens.

She understood that learning to negotiate and compromise are positive skills to allow children to develop so that friendships grow and become strong in the nursery years so that the process of maturation and finally reaching adulthood becomes less arduous and isolating. If a child has one particular adult with whom they can develop a positive relationship during their time away from family, such as in the nursery, then their stay is less traumatic and their play and learned behaviours become more positive. From this, the idea of a key person has evolved and is currently promoted by the Early Years Foundation Stage in the United Kingdom.

Elinor worked with Sonia Jackson to write about People Under Three. I think their work has enormous implications for all learning. I will follow up on their key person ideas. “The key person makes sure that, within the day-to-day demands of thesetting, each child for whom they have special responsibility feels individual, cherished and thought about by someone inparticular while they are away from home.”

MOOC

The concept of a key person was reinforced for me this week with news of two MOOC events. Learning and Knowledge Analytics (LAK11) has been underway for a week. After my participation in CCK08 I have viewed George Siemens as a key person in my learning and trust implicitly his making sense of the world. I am impressed constantly by George’s energy as a guide and catalyst for learning. I will struggle to be an active participant in LAK11 and hope that legitimate peripheral participation is acceptable. There are some great resources available at LAK11 … a wonderful trove. I liked Dave Cormier’s post this week about the roles that can be played in a MOOC.

Stephen Downes is another key person in my learning. I have been writing about Stephen’s work from the origins of this blog. Many of my posts are inspired by links Stephen shares in OLDaily. Stephen is facilitating CCK11 with George Siemens. The course outline is here and week 1 news is here. I was interested to read George’s observation that “We are doing away with the central-space of Moodle – our final break from the LMS and will be using only the commenting feature within gRSShopper. While it might not seem like a huge change on the surface, it is probably our most significant experiment to date.” I found a newer version of Kroc Carmen’s post about RSS via a link in OLDaily.

Both courses are treasure baskets for me. It is great to start the day in Australia with news of goings on in Canada. I have an opportunity to explore ideas some fifteen hours ahead of convivial discussion in the Northern Hemisphere.

Conclusion

Sonia Jackson points out that Elinor Goldschmied’s first job was “in the junior school of Dartington Hall, the “progressive” school in Devon, where she stayed for five years. Dartington in the 1930s provided an exciting cultural and political environment which changed her view of the world.” The post that started me off on this reflection on treasure trove was written by a pupil at the Park School, Dartington. Beth was at the school in the late 1980s and like Elinor has been profoundly influenced by the possibilities of play in learning.

I am immensely proud of Beth’s entry into blogging. Her vision is to find ways to share knowledge and connect parents of young children. She, George and Stephen have a great deal in common in the altruism of connecting.