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Posts Tagged ‘using technology with students’

I have tried to support my ideas with references and reports as I have been going along, but I have done a lot of reading that I have not necessarily been able to include within my posts. I don’t want the important learning I have gained to be lost into the ether, hence using this post to consolidate some of it.

Now that I have been working on my project for a while, I have had time to further consider the point made by Wenger et al (2009 p75) where they note that the choice of technology used for online meetings needs to ‘reflect the style of the community’. They write extensively about communities (in its broadest definition) and how to support the activity and cohesiveness of dispersed communities. My decision to use Blackboard Collaborate is able to be adapted to the style that is required on the day, as it has multiple functions. Therefore if a session has a more didactic element (such as the session I need to lead where I instruct students on electronic portfolio submission) then I can show slides and talk to the group. However if the group want to just ‘hangout’ more informally in other sessions, this too is possible, plus they can doodle on a shared screen, write text to each other and so on (as I have stated before, it is my intention that these sessions are primarily led by the participants, the students themselves, creating their own community of practice). The only challenge might be the fact that only one person can speak at once – this may hinder the flow of spontaneous conversation.

It mildly concerns me that I have had no communication from students about the online meetings, but it also does not surprise me, as they are busy orienting themselves in challenging workplace environments with people who have mental health needs, or services for children and families. Once I have had the chance to learn how to set up a Blackboard Collaborate session (sadly, not within the timeframe that the assessment of this project requires as the next available training is after Christmas) I will be able to contact the student group with a definitive time and place to try out the first session – at this stage it will be the students themselves who will decide if they are going to access these, for as Laurillard notes ‘it is the teacher’s responsibility to create the conditions in which understanding is possible, and the student’s responsibility to take advantage of this’ (2002 p1).

Laurillard D (2002) Rethinking University Teaching: a conversational framework for the efferctive use of learning technologies 2nd Edition. RoutledegeFalmer; NewYork.

Wenger E, White N and Smith JD (2009) Digital Habitats – stewarding technology for communities CPsquare; Portland, OR.

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Following my attempt to test the use of Google Hangout last week, I have continued to consider which platform to use with my student group. My friend Rachel had a number of things to do in order to get going on the Hangout – this included both setting up a Google+ account, then downloading a ‘plugin’ in order to be able to run the Hangout on her computer. She mentioned that she wanted to do this on her computer, not her partners as his is a work laptop and he doesn’t like unnecessarily downloading any applications onto it. I had also had to install the Google Chrome browser in order to access Google Hangout. This got me thinking about the fact that some students may be accessing the online meeting using placement computers, in which case they may run into similar issues and difficulties downloading applications. This coupled with the fact that the Google Hangout can only host a maximum of 10 participants has prompted me to rethink which platform I use and therefore I am going to use Blackboard Collaborate. One of the audience did ask me about the 10 participant maximum during my presentation, and I agreed it was a valid point, but that I would pilot the project using Hangout, then move to Blackboard Collaborate down the line if necessary. On reflection I now feel it makes more sense to ‘start as I mean to go on’, so that the students can develop confidence in using one particular technology. In addition, having now used Hangout, I believe that Blackboard Collaborate is not that dissimilar to Hangout. As well as setting up the online sessions for support for student support whilst out on placement, there is now another dimension in that I have been tasked by my Programme Leader to deliver a session in how to hand in their practice portfolios online as this group are going to be piloting electronic hand in. I couldn’t risk more than 10 people wanting to attend an important session like that and not being able to, giving additional weight to me choosing Blackboard Collaborate as the most appropriate online meeting platform.

I made enquiries and have contacted somebody about accessing training on setting up, facilitating and moderating Blackboard Collaborate.

Now I need to write a bit more about some of the reading I have been doing, and how it applies to my project….

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Today I have spent time reading some of the resources that I hadn’t already had a chance to look at on the ALT module BlackBoard site – of particular interest was this short video explaining what a community of practice is, by Etienne Wenger:

This is exactly what I am wanting to create for our students – working away from  the University remotely in different practice settings. My intention is that by providing them with a tool to meet as a group, shared learning will occur; that they can discuss what has worked and what hasn’t worked; as well as collectively identifying any gaps in their knowledge that I can support them with. I set up a page on BlackBoard for them, and posted the video about communities of practice for them to also watch. I then emailed the group and updated them, signposting them to the new page and video, and asking for their thoughts and suggestions on aspects such as when would be a good time to meet? Would a session in the day and a session in the evening be a good idea? I suspect that I won’t get a particularly good response as they are all in the first few weeks of starting placement, so will no doubt be preoccupied with orientating themselves in a new work environment, but at least they know they can contact me. I have also told them that I intend to pilot the online session soon, so would appreciate a few people to help me try it out.

Postscript: As at 4pm on 13th December not one student has contacted me! I did suspect that they would all be busy climatising themselves to their placements. In addition, I assume nobody has looked at the page I set up on B/B for them, as it transpired today that our second years are not even enrolled on the site I placed it on! Therefore they wouldn’t be able to access it even if they wanted to!

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Last Thursday I participated in my first webinar. There were about 8 or 9 of us taking part. I found the experience really interesting, though struggled with trying to keep up with the 3 or 4 different aspects that were going on concurrently – listening to people speak; engaging in the exercises on the screen; and reading and joining in the typed interaction. I guess that it becomes easier the more you do it. Chrissi led the webinar effectively and efficiently, making everyone feel it ease. I believe that having someone in this role who is confident and competent is essential for everyone to get the most out of it. This is something I could see as being really beneficial with students, although most effective for a remote group of students, particularly those who are distance learning. I think that currently there would be limited mileage in using this technology for our current Joint Programme students, although this might change in the future as the delivery of programmes change. (K4)

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