Monday, June 16, 2008

Ive been out and about in cyberspace 17th June

Heres some feedback for fellow particpants and comments on postings.

Annalynn Wk 14 (Wk8 ) blog - The Modern Internet - adding to the dialogue around technology, barriers and poor communication tools - herein lies the dilemna and the importance of the Design Phase as outlined by Bronwyn in her interview on YouTube about Flexi learning - technology is a tool to be used to the best advantage of the students you are teaching:
Design Phase:
- content and assessment
- technology support
- what can (your) students actually use
Bronwyn if I won lotto it would be laptops for all with the full adobe suite software installed and wireless internet - these could act as personal workbooks and visual diaries and wonderful research, development and design tools. Definitely think we could do away with some of the paper war we have in design!
Leighs comments on YouTube (newly arrived at Otago Poly I presume) indicated that his experience at that time was with "networked learning online" - I believe there is definitely a place for fully integrated online networks, in particular, in programmes with motivated students - as demonstrated by both Ken Wysocki and Merroly Penman in their interviews. How then can we fully engage less motivated students to participate? - chocolate fish maybe! - as part of their assessment?
I had considered that the extra workload/time committement required ( talked about by Ken and Merroly) would perhaps dissipate as you become more proficient at using the online facilities and tools however that does not seem to be the case - guess this also depends on your own availablity & committment to students - as with all teachers boundaries need to be put in place as being available so students can"reach out at any hour" (Wysocki) does not suit everyones work practice. Equity also has to apply to the teachers!
Merroly commented on the "repackaging" of existing face to face courses considering the learning environment and what it is you are wanting to create for the distance learners. I am beginning to fully appreciate the complexities of providing online and blended programmes alongside the face to face - in terms of assessment this could be a real challenge especially in the area of fashion design as the presence of a garment and the tactility of the fabric are an essential part of the experience. Second Life already entertains many fashion brands and stores where you can purchase clothing and accessories and of course online shopping in real life is the norm now - however for us fashion "purists" the phenomenological experience of clothing requires having a garment present, and for assessment purposes being able to see the actual stitching etc may be a requirement.
Comments on Plans viewed:
Fexible Frying (Steve Ellwood)'s Flexi draft plan and the current teaching tools on YouTube were pretty inspiring - the plan being a great integration of blended learning - the music videos also taking into account issues of access and equity - no speaking required - not only does it cut out a technical stage, it adds atmosphere, makes u concentrate on the visuals and tasks and can be utilised fully by the hard of hearing.
Megan from Nutrition could consider the benefits of reflective practice as part of her plan, integrating these into tutorials and requiring students to reflect on lecture content and tutorial discussion not only on a blog but also in a reflective diary. I find this encourages attendance too as it is a requirement of assessment.
Athena's plan is wonderfully ambitious and will require committment from OT and others - linking students with lecturers and clinicians and maintaining that level of committment will be key - enabling everyone to participate; so overcoming those possible barriers outlined by Bronwyn (mentioned earlier) with excellent design - wonder if a longer timeline may be needed.
Time to do some planning of my own - doing some planning for a paper for next semester and finding myself beginning to consider more flexible delivery options and of course my "thing" sustainablity integration. Great stuff.

Start at the beginning!

Finally gearing up to not just read but actually disseminate & interpret & muse about the information on the Wiki. Have started my marathon of connecting with the course info in a more integrated way, although it will really be a sprint (something I have always been much better at anyway!).

The website has much food for thought and I have copied several of the key ideas around the need for Flexible Learning below to keep as mementos and to comment on:

1. Why Flexible Learning

Recognition of the need for and value of a flexible learning approach has been a response to a number of factors. As higher education has become more widely accessible it has needed to cater for a more diverse range of students. There has also been greater recognition of individual differences in preferred learning styes, cultural differences and gender differences, and a greater understanding of how these differences can be catered for in educational programs. I believe the recognition of the growing needs and changing face of students has been known (and recognised) for many years and within my area of teaching we have tried to cater for this changing student. The Fashion School tends to attract students from varying backgrounds including international and english as a second language students, mature first learners, multicultural, students with learning disabilities and varying skill levels to name a few but the majority of our students tend to be young women directly from or recently having left secondary education. To cater to these diverse groups we very quickly establish teacher/student relationships that allow us to understand and determine the personal and individual requirements and future aspirations of a student. This tends to happen in an ad hoc way with individual needs assessed as part of the studio environment we work in, but does allow for an individual pathway to be established in regard to "a personal design identity", this being something that is encouraged and in fact sets us apart from other fashion schools in NZ. However we have tended to cater to the needs of these students by working within the structured framework of the existing course rather than providing a "truly" flexible way of delivering content.
A demand for more flexible approaches to education and training has also emerged from the changing social context of education and the diverse needs of employers. Flexible learning is seen as a mechanism for making learning more contextualised than classroom based learning alone. The increasing pace of social change and the consequent focus on lifelong learning are further factors. Connections and relationships with the fashion industry have been rigorously maintained and is an ongoing focus for our professional body The relevance of our course to the needs of the industry is assessed through Industry based projects, moderation and work placement. There remains the opportunity to offer more courses based within an industry context and ongoing research and development projects.

Learner Centred
Underlying the practice of flexible learning is an educational philosophy that puts the learner at the centre of the learning experience. The aim of a flexible learning approach is to respond to the diverse needs of learners.
Absolutely - what can I say.
Constructivist Learning Theories
Related to this learner-centred philosophy is a view of learning as being an active and interactive process that fosters independent learning rather than a passive learning experience. Learners are engaged in a process of guided discovery and exploration that involves using what they know to learn more about what they are interested in. Learning strategies such as contextualised or situated learning, collaborative learning, team work, project-based or activity based learning, and problem based learning facilitate a process where learners construct meaning to make new knowledge relevant to them. Flexible learning approaches support such a constructivist approach to teaching and learning by offering choices in learning strategies, and access to a wide range of resources.

Constructivist learning is at the core of our philosophy - an example is a course I have developed over several years that involves a team project at year 2 of the Bachelor programme that enables students to develop their own fashion label and range of garments fit for sale (marketing & small business skills involved here) - "selling" to a local retailer and readying the garments for production in conjunction with manufacturing. Throughout the process the students are introduced to the required tools and the lecturers become the facilitators (and the learners too at times). The project is primarily student driven although I do think the assessment criteria is still too rigid and perhaps here is an opportunity for the students to have more input into their final outcomes in terms of assessment.

I have also listened to Rachel Gillies presentation of her Digital Literacy course development and will follow up by talking to her about the implementation of this into the BFA this year. I found her methodologies and development process very helpful in terms of some of the considerations I still have to make.

Read Leighs Flexi learning writings - I tend to agree with the assertations (is that a word?) that there is much resource wasting within tertiary institutions and we could look at better ways (more flexible of course!) of utilising existing resources and more creative ways of providing some services. The computer suite comment made me laugh a little - we actually have a high usage of computers/suites as many of our students are in the majority that Rachel pointed out that dont have computers or the internet at home (in their flats) + of course it is nice and warm at C Block!

Time to sign off as beginning to lose track.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

15th June - response to Leighs comments posted 9th June

Thanks Leigh - yes asking the students questions about the "flexibility" of our program is an option - perhaps it needs to be added to the 'student satisfaction surveys'. Always important to consider student needs (equity etc.) alongside the course requirements and also the requirements of the industry (in this case fashion NZ) and weigh up the significance and importance of something within a programme - we must move with the times while considering the needs of the future practitioners and the nature of the industry they are entering.

About the slow progress I am making with Assignment one (weekly blogging) - I have discussed this with Bronwyn and have considered doing a marathon catchup to meet course deadlines - however this would not occur until after the draft plan presentation. I am therefore unsure at this point (following your comments) whether to continue with the draft plan development powerpoint (slideshow) and presentation for next Friday that I have started. Can this draft plan be presented with some of the essential reading etc not completed. You are right I am concentrating on the current deadlines - perhaps I need to consider a more flexible approach so assignments can be fully developed utilising all the resources and weekly readings etc. I am finding the whole online experience a challenge. Feedback please.

15th June reflection on feedback

Thanks again Bronwyn for the valuable feedback - in light of Bronwyns comments I am considering concentrating on developing one specific resource to hopefully enhance the teaching and learning of sustainablity issues and in fact could be used in many situations.
By developing the idea of an online "place" that students can display a digital visual diary and or final design work - also could be used as a gallery space. Currently students use the visual diary/workbook as a personal space for exploration, reflection and research; development of ideas and final design outcomes. These diaries are an essential part of assessment as 'proof' of engagement with course content (notetaking, reflection, further reading, research and exploration) and process. I do not believe that the physical workbook can be replaced by an online counterpart at this stage - however possibly if students all had their own laptops it could be a reality.
Feedback from a collegue about my initial idea "good idea, as long as the technology doesn't get in the way, and it is an option for the students to showcase, not an essential method. Also, and you will laugh at this coming from me .... what about the tactility? And sometimes detail gets lost in the scanning process, need to consider that."
Could also be issues of privacy etc. - would have to be a password protected site maybe. Depends on whether it is for assessment only or as a gallery space too. Perhaps links from a Fashion School blog or website so the gallery is open and the visual diary/workbook stuff is more private.

An online space to place work would mean the students could be more discerning about the contents of their workbooks in terms of what is being viewed by others. So an extension of the workbook rather than a replacement. The ability to be able to share thoughts about any subject in a safe environment - the space could be used for critique and as part of an assessment. Could be used as a moderation tool - external moderation e.g. RMIT and of course as a distance learning tool. Still lots to nut out!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

4th June - Response to Wk12 Phil Ker illuminate session

Phils talk was "illuminating" and of course what we would expect from a forward thinking CEO. This session was actually the first time I have experienced using Illuminate and in fact I was a little impatient with the start up - understand how it works now tho.
Whilst reading the very first course reader Collins & Moonen (2001), "Flexible learning:its not just about distance", I had had a query about Institutional Policy and Otago Poly and what the general feeling about implementation was. The complex task of developing a "consenus" within an institution has been mostly answered by Phil Ker and has further enlightened me to the possibilites within this institution as well as giving support and validity to much of the teaching (pedagogy) myself and others within the fashion school are already doing. Access to resources etc is something that technology can generally overcome but creating learner autonomy is the key to the success of flexible engagement within a course I believe. Blended delivery and course content is integral to the success of a course that is trying to cater to a variety of learning styles - does the blended approach to teaching always have to include a digital component though?; Currently the courses I am involved in use both the Aquisition model (e.g.lectures) and the Participation model (e.g.workshops, critiques, projects). Perhaps it is the actual delivery in terms of variety (flexability) that is going to be the biggest challenge. We currently have a low enrollment and retention of males within the fashion school so perhaps we are not catering to their needs (could of course be that males are not so intrested in a career in the fashion industry)We have looked at the idea of the block course and do run several papers as blocks - this seems to be successful in terms of hands on aquisition of skills but is not always successful in terms of depth of knowledge gained and retained as ongoing practice is the key - depends on the length of the block. Offering ongoing top ups of information and projects by distance or online could be something to consider here.
Considering flexible assessment and flexible outcomes for students is a real challenge and an area that I am only beginning to explore. The maturity and ability of students to work independantly I believe is also a key to the success of providing flexible options in this area. We are already offering flexibility in terms of outcomes to a point within Design projects as designed outcomes are entirely up to the student, working within a brief that ensures the requirements of the course/content are met. The students work within a studio environment where the teacher is the facilitator and the timetable is based around teacher present and self directed sessions - the students decide when and how they work and how they utilise the facilities and resources available to them. As long as students are able to justify design decisions with thoughtful research based references the outcomes from Design projects are up to them. Is this flexible though? they still have to handin and present at the same time. A point to consider is that meeting deadlines is an essentail skill in the fashion industry so having strict deadlines is an important aspect of the course and in some cases a motivational tool for students!