Lifelong learning

John Seely Brown on entrepreneurial learners

This talk from John Seely Brown is 3 years old now but still much food for thought. Seely Brown’s book on ‘The New Lanscape of Learning‘ (co-authored with Douglas Thomas) is one that I suggest to my SSC students to read and review and it always gets a posiitve response.  However the students that present this book always highlight that the curriuclum doesn’t particularly embrace these new landscapes of learning and they question whether we are preparing the for the change they will constantly face when they graduate.  So after some quick reflection I’m left thinking are we helping to prepare our students to develop their participatory learning skills along with their self-directed and self-regulated learning skills.  With the growing trend of viewing students as consumers and spoon feeding is it time for us to start innovating more in our teaching and to become entrepreneurial teachers if we want entrepreneurial learners?

Learning subjectives – things that glisten

How to put pretty stuff in those drops. by Steve took it, on Flickr

I’ve not got a good track record with MOOCs, I sign up for them, start a few, lurk a bit but invariably don’t finish them as I never  seem to have enough time to commit to them.  Last year I managed one post on #rhizo14, the other week I spotted that #rhizo15 was starting up so here goes let’s see if I manage more than one post this time round!
For the first task we’ve been asked to think about building learning subjectives and how we design our own learning when we don’t know where we’re going.  I’m not sure if I have specific learning subjectives for #rhizo15 but the concept of subjectives brought back to mind the final year of my degree.
Thinking back to my undergraduate student days I can’t really remember having learning outcomes, there was a sense that we’d be assessed on what was covered in the lectures, labs and practicals.  I’m sure there will have been course objectives and outcomes but I don’t recall them being explicit or communicated at the start of teaching sessions in the way they are now. Was this a bad thing? After some of my peers complained that they couldn’t hear one of our lecturers he pitched up at his next lecture making it clear that if we wanted to get a decent class of degree then we’d have to do more than regurgitate lectures in our finals.  He went on to say we should be doing 10 hours reading per week per module to supplement the lectures. This struck a chord with me and it’s something I’ve reflected on quite a bit over the past few years as I’ve pondered whether our use of technology in higher education has led to spoon feeding students.  I didn’t do 10 hours reading per module but I remember reading more round topics that particularly interested me.  Certain things spark off a light in your mind, and you pursue your curiosity, or you want to find the information that will help you solve a problem.

In medicine it sometimes seems that students are almost like slaves to learning outcome and objectives, so much of their learning is driven by assessment.  The one opportunity they have to break the tyranny of objectives is when they choose their student selected components, they can propose their own 4 week module and set their own objectives.  It’s a bit like when you’re at primary school and you all get to pick a topic to explore and create your own topic book.  There are things that standout and almost glisten as they grab your attention and stimulate your interest and curiosity.  You get drawn to question and explore as they lead you to discover a whole series of other interesting things and take you down paths you’ve never been down before.

I’m not sure what my learning subjectives are but there are things that I’ve been thinking about the past few months including an exasperation around the concept of minimum standards in VLEs and the fact that so often when it comes to technology in higher education there seems to be tunnel vision and a lack of joined up thinking.  I’m not sure if these directly relate to the whole concept of rhizomatic learning but perhaps #rhizo15 might serve as a catalyst to help me put aside some time to think and explore and unpick the things that are glistening and catching my eye.

Image Credit
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  Steve took it 

Image credit

Post Script to #AMEE2014 #PCW16 Workshop on Personalising Learning

Here’s the second of my post AMEE blog posts which focuses on the pre-conference workshop I ran with John Sanders from the University of Sheffield on ‘How to create personalised learning opportunities in the information age: Essential skills for the 21st century teacher’.  John kicked off the workshop looking at why we might personalise learning and some relevant learning theories and how technology is being used to personalise learning.

I went on to give a quick overview of how I’ve been using technology to support my own learning and talked about some of the elements of my personal learning environment (PLE) and how I’ve built a personal learning network (PLN).  I talked about how this related to my ongoing learning in relation to professional development and the 12 roles of the medical teacher outlined by Crosby and Harden (1) back in 2000.  Whilst their focus is on medical education a good number of these roles apply to lecturers whatever their discipline or subject area in higher education.

12 roles of the medical teacher

You can see my slides below which walk through my journey of using social media including blogs, Twitter and the emergence of free open access meducation – FOAMed.

For those of us who’ve been inhabiting digital landscapes for sometime the concepts of PLEs and PLNs are nothing new but for some these are new terms.   In the lead up to the conference I was struck by a blog post by Martin Weller asking the question ‘Why don’t we talk about PLEs anymore?’.  I think Martin is right, there’s less discussion these days on Twitter and in the blogosphere about PLEs than there was 5 years and I posted this comment on Martin’s blog with some of my thoughts on why this might be.

I wonder if it’s also dropped off the radar slightly because personalised learning is talked about much more rather than personal learning. Much of this is perhaps being driven by the attention on learning analytics and how this can be used to support personalised learning. Along with MOOCs and the flipped classroom, learning analytics seems to be one of the big buzzes (hypes?) in education. I do wonder whether this is a good thing and whether we should actually be focusing more on personal learning so that students develop the skills to become lifelong and wide learners.

I picked up on these themes in another section of the workshop and made the distinction between ‘personal’ learning which is made by and for oneself and self-organised and managed versus what seems to be the current trend around ‘personalised learning’ which to me seems to have become more about learning being customised for individuals and linked to machine learning.  Learning analytics seems to be the big driver here and whilst I can see that this can all help support student learning I do have concerns that this is technology spoon feeding students rather than encouraging students to become independent self-directed and regulated learners.  Once our graduates are in the work place they have to take personal responsibility for their own personal development and lifelong learning, I’m not sure learning analytics are going to be prescribing learning pathways for them in the world of work (but who knows MOOCS might have taken over the world and this will be the future!).

John  went on to look at the importance of both students and teachers having the digital, information and learning literacies to be able to personalise their own learning.  He also highlighted that teachers need to have the skills to be able to design learning activities which provide the appropriate scaffolding for students to develop their own personal learning approaches.  I think we still have a way to go with teachers developing these skills and the continued reliance on the walled garden of the VLE perhaps doesn’t help.  There have been several posts over the past few days about VLEs/LMSs talking about why we’re sticking with VLEs which if time permits I’d like to respond to but in essence I think they kind of miss the point.  I think these posts also provide a further answer to Martin Weller’s question about why no one is talking about PLEs anymore, which I think is a real shame.

Within the medical education and health care professions world there is still some scepticism around the use of social media for learning, not least from students who make great use of facebook to support collective learning in their year and study groups but don’t connect much beyond that.  There are growing communities around #FOAMed, #WeNurses, WePharmacists etc and there’s a nice editorial by Moorley and Chinn (2) in the Journal of Advanced Nursing looking at using social media for continuous professional development.  Closer to home I was interested to see that NHS Education Scotland (NES) have teamed together with the The Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services (IRISS) to make this video on building your personal learning network.

The press release that accompanied the launch of this video included a great quote from Malcolm Wright who’s the Chief Executive of NES.  He said:

‘The social use of knowledge is an important strand of the Knowledge into Action strategy which aims to make finding and using knowledge a routine part of everyday work.  By social use of knowledge we mean the tools, techniques and skills that connect people so that they can share experience and find ways of applying knowledge.

We know that published evidence does not translate into practice until people start talking about it and sharing practical examples.  Social networking tools such as communities of practice, Twitter and Yammer can play a vital role in this socialising process.’

If you walk the online corridors of #FOAMed this is exactly what you see, personal networks talking over the latest evidence, guidelines, critically appraising them.  Senior medics serving as virtual mentors to new doctors and students. With organisations like the NHS recognising the benefits of PLNs perhaps we can start to get PLEs talked about again.

If you’re new to the concept of a PLN and PLE take a look at Join the PLN Challenge and Earn a Rare Prized Badge to get some useful tips.

REFERENCES

(1) Crosby, R. H. J. (2000). AMEE Guide No 20: The good teacher is more than a lecturer-the twelve roles of the teacher. Medical teacher, 22(4), 334-347.

(2) Moorley, C., & Chinn, T. (2014). Using social media for continuous professional development. Journal of advanced nursing.

Exploring rhizomatic learning on #rhizo14

A new year, a new MOOC!  Over the next few weeks Dave Cormier is running a cMOOC on rhizomatic learning over on the Peer2Peer University platform.  I’m  hoping to dip in and out of this MOOC as I’m interested in exploring the concept of rhizomatic learning a bit further and particularly in the context of of #FOAMed (Free Open Access Meducation).

I’ve chipped in on conversations on Twitter about FOAMed and the learning theories that might be relevant to this growing movement in medical education. FOAMed is frequently described as a community of practice and it can also be seen as an example of connectivisim. Social networking and media tools like Twitter, blogs, YouTube etc have played a key role in the growth of FOAMed providing open publishing platforms and facilitating connections shaping a new online learning landscape.

In ‘Communities of Practice: Critical perspectives‘, Yrjö Engeström has contributed a chapter ‘From communities of practice to Mycorrhizae‘ in which he considers the social production of learning as a new landscape of learning. Engeström presents a framework for conceptualising this landscape where runaway objects are created, which have the potential to gain a global scale of influence. These are then exchanged, negotiated and peer reviewed in a learning  environment that is highly expansive, multidirectional and has a swarming type of engagement, which he describes as being like ‘mycorrhizae’.  I think his framework does describe how I see FOAMed.  Engeström had considered rhizomatic learning as a framework but felt the horizontal and vertical rhizomatic connections too limiting.

I’ve been mulling over this off and on for a few months and so hoping that whilst the rhizomatic learning MOOC is running I’ll be able to give a bit more time to exploring these ways of viewing learning further. Against the backdrop of this MOOC I’m also continuing to think about our students’ learning literacies including their digital literacy skills. Reading Ronan Kavanagh’s blog post last week ‘How Twitter cured my mid-life crisis‘ highlighted yet again how differently our students view Twitter.  We’ve used Twitter to support our teaching in public health but the majority of students don’t seem to really like using it or see the point of using it to support their learning.  Those that do get it put it to good use and seem to reap the benefits.  We’re looking at other ways to try and engage students with all of this and make them aware of the potential but maybe we’re flogging a dead horse … or maybe they won’t get it till they’re middle aged!

Further reading

Rhizomatic learning – Why we teach? by Dave Cormier

Mycorrhizal networks and learning by David WIley

AMEE 2013 #FOAMed Workshop

Today I’m running a workshop on #FOAMed with at AMEE 2013, along with my colleagues Annalisa Manca and Ellie Hothersall from Dundee and Laura-Jane Smith from UCL.  We’ll be giving a brief introduction to the growing movement of Free Open Access Medical Education #FOAMed.  We’ll be asking our participants to identify if if they are already using elements of FOAMed and how.  Annalisa is going to go over some of the educational theories that are at play in FOAMed and then Ellie and LJ will be demonstrating how they’ve adopted elements of FOAMed to support undergraduate teaching and in particular how they’ve used to Twitter to support teaching in public health and case-based discussions. We’ll also highlight some of the other FOAMed activities that are going a cross the continuum of education before we get our groups to look at how they might design a #FOAMed approach to some learning scenarios that we’ve come up with.

The slides from our session are here and there’s also a handout that I’ve put together with a brief intro to FOAMed, some examples, information on tools that can form part of a FOAMed toolkit and some tips taken from comments left by some of the FOAMed community on my last post.

Technology, HE and spoon-feeding students

2010 Canon Photo5 Brief 5: Inspired by S by Jessica M. Cross, on Flickr

Alison Seaman has written an interesting piece on Personal Learning Networks: Knowledge Sharing as Democracy.  This sentence in particular caught my attention:

Underlying the development of a PLN is the need for individual learners to be able to have the capacity for self-direction, which requires a higher level of learning maturity—an absence of which may represent a barrier for a percentage of adults to learn in this way. Also crucially important for networked learning is the level of development of individuals’ digital and web literacies in order for members to optimally filter out ‘noise’ and contribute to the health of the network.

Which got me thinking … Does the way that we generally use technology in higher education tend to support spoon-feeding and traditional sage on the stage approaches to teaching and learning rather than helping students to develop digital and web literacies to support more self-directed learning and skills for lifelong learning?  Our students can read announcements in the VLE and download lecture powerpoints, other announcments and important infromation are emailed. Long gone are the days of having to trek to check a departmental noticeboard in a building where you rarely had lectures. I often hear colleagues say we’re spoon-feeding students these days, they don’t know how easy they’ve got it.

Back in 2009 JISC published a report Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World, which highlighted that students had little insight into how Web 2.0 tools could support their learning as opposed to their social lives. Three and a half years on I wonder how much things have changed?  How many students have the skills to develop a PLN as outlined in Alison’s article?  There are some medical students writing super blog posts, engaging in interesting twitter conversations, making great contributions to the #ukmeded twitter chat, developing their own learning resources and peer learning initiatives, they are doing some really great stuff oline and have developed very supportive PLNs. But these students are the exception rather than the rule.  Does that matter, was it any different 20 odd years ago?  Would I be one of these connected students if I was an undergraduate now, would I engage with Twitter and blogs if I’d had to use them for my learning when I was a student?

We recently used Twitter to support teaching on flu epidemics as part of our public health theme.  Some students took to it quite enthusiastically and really enjoyed the interaction with tutors, but the vast majority engaged because they had to and I suspect most will not continue to engage with Twitter to support their learning.  Alan Cann has used tools such as FriendFeed and Google+ in learning activities with his students at Leicester over the past few years but this year decided to make use of Google+ voluntary and has not linked it to assessment.  As a consequence very few students have actually enagaged with it and Alan is having more interaction with his students through Dark Social tools such as email and the VLE.

So why don’t students get how tools like Twitter and Google+ etc can support their learning? Why do they stop using them once the piece of work has been assessed?  It took me sometime to get Twitter, and it took a while for the penny to drop with Google+.  Are we just too impatient with students who don’t get this stuff, forgetting the learning curve we went through?  Are students too impatient to get how web and digital literacies can support their learning, do they think we’re just trying to be trendy using Twitter in our teaching and it’s all pretty pointless?  Or is the problem linked to how we’ve used VLEs to largely transmit information and a wider issue in higher education around students being spoon-fed and not developing the skills to become independent learners as outlined in this piece by Peter Ovens in THE from November 2011?

When we asked our 2nd year students back in 2009 whether they were interested in us running some infromal sessions on using RSS and Web 2.0 tools there was large scale disinterest.  A few months ago when we surveyed all five years of students the pendulum had swung to most students being interested.  This semester we’ll hopefully be running sessions for staff and students to share tips on how they use different tools and apps to support their learning.  It will be interesting to see how this approach goes and whether it proves any more successful than using tools in timetabled teaching activities. I’m hoping it will be and that the students who come along will pass on what they think is useful to their peers.

IMAGE CREDIT

Trends in online learning: #FOAMed

In recent months RSS feeds and Twitter have been overflowing with mentions of MOOCs, as Cousera, Udacity and EdX continue to attract new university partners and launch growing numbers of courses.  As these big guns have entered the world of MOOCs they’ve attracted lots of attention from the mainstream press, whilst MOOC participants are blogging about their experience as learners on these MOOCs and some of the issues they’ve encountered.

So how about MOOCs and medical education?  Back in January I blogged about an open online anatomy course that Stanford were due to be running in March.  Out of curiosity, I signed up along with a few colleagues, but the course was postponed and it’s not one of the 24 Coursera offerings listed under medicine so who knows if it’s going to go ahead.  I’m sure we’ll see more medical themed MOOCs come on stream from the big players running what are now being referrred to as xMOOCs.  Overall though in terms of online medical education I think there’s another emerging trend that’s more interesting than MOOCs and that’s free open access medical education (#FOAMed).

#FOAMed resources are typically being delivered via blog sites and much of the credit for the emergence and growth of #FOAMed is down to Mike Cadogan and Chris Nickson of Life in the Fast Lane fame and the growing band of emergency medicine bloggers that are following in their footsteps such as the team at St Emlyn’s.

It’s not just all about emergency medicine though, there are growing numbers of clinicians using blogging platforms to support and deliver medical education and particularly at postgraduate and CME level that can be branded as #FOAMed.  One example that’s been gaining momentum over the past year is  #gasclass set up by Sean Williamson and colleagues on Teeside.  #gasclass uses a WordPress blog and Twitter to support case based discussion for trainee anaesthetists.  Set up originally to  support weekly face to face training and discussion of local trainees it now attracts an international audience and is a great example of #FOAMed.  Another example is #ecgclass run by Heather Watherell and her Keeping ECGs Simple blog.  There are other sites and related twitter chats springing up around different medical specialties including urology and public health and a growing list of #FOAMed supporters.

More recently it’s been great to see undergraduate medical students getting involved with #FOAMed activities.  There’s the Twitter Finals Revision Group #twitfrg set up by Faye Bishton.  Each week Faye posts up notes for revision topics for medical students and hosts a Twitter chat on Thursday evenings at 8pm (UK time) and doctors are joining in to provide additional support to this student led initiative. Another student example is Anatomy Zone.

I don’t think the #FOAMed approach is just relevant to medical education, tools such as blogs, twitter and social media are open and accessible to anyone and in essence it’s perhaps another way of describing open educational recources (OER).  Last week I was interested to see some posts in my Feedly feed from Clive Shepherd on Kineo’s Learning Insights 2012 report and one in particular in which he highlighted that elearning is changing and said:

If you want to know about, say, photography – one of my current interests – the first thing you do is go to Google and YouTube. Your search doesn’t lead you to slide shows full of bullet points and multiple-choice questions, but to blogs, Wikipedia articles, screencasts and lots and lots of videos.

You know the detailed information will always be available online so you don’t bother trying to learn any of that. You want the big picture, the important ideas, lots of tips and tricks, and demonstrations of the key skills. If you have questions, you go to the forums. If you want to benchmark your progress against that of your peers, you join groups, share your work and provide helpful critiques to others. We are completely accustomed to learning in this fashion and very satisfied with how well it works. We cannot see why things should be so different at work.

So e-learning design is changing because, more often than not, it’s not traditional e-learning that people want. They’re looking for resources not courses. They want these resources in all sorts of forms – plain text will often do, graphics are nice, but they particularly like video. They are not expecting these resources to be fully-functioning learning objects, that take a learning objective through to its conclusion. Rather they want to pick and choose from a range of materials that can each make a contribution to whatever evolving goals they may have.

We’re looking for a new breed of digital learning content designers. Yes, they will be able to analyse a need and understand an audience but, most importantly, they will be great communicators in a wide variety of media.

It used to be that we turned to text books for resources, but as Clive suggests we’re all increasingly looking online for resources and when we find them we share them.  One of the roles of the doctor is the doctor as teacher and with the advent of #FOAMed what we’re seeing is a new generation of digital medical educators. Educators (or digital learning content designers as Clive describes them) who’ve engaged with technology and used it to create learning resources and enhance learning and create new opportunities for social learning that can both complement and supplement face-to-face and on the job learning.

The interesting thing is that this approach hasn’t emerged out of an institutional top down approach or beacuse of funding calls.  It’s being led by individual doctors who want to improve and enhance medical education and have grasped that technology can help to make resources openly accessible and support online learning.  There are also doctors who’ve started blogging who’s blog posts are also being used to support learning and in turn #FOAMed resources.  Two recent cases that spring to mind include Laura Jane Smith’s post on the Human touch which was posted up on our respiratory teaching blog and shared with our 1st year students and also Jonathan Tomlinson’s post on Shame which medical students were sharing and resharing via the Twitter sphere.

When I took up my current post, Life in the Fast Lane was one of the few medical education blogs around and Mike Cadogan was one of the first doctors I started following on Twitter.  Together with Alan Cann’s MicrobiologyBytes, Sam Webster’s blog and  Jim Groom’s work at University Mary Washington, Mike got me thinking about using blogs to support our undergraduate teaching and that led to an interesting journey for us at Dundee with our VLE.  Four years on it’s clear to see that Mike and his Life in the Fast Lane team are continuing to inspire growing numbers of doctors to embrace free open access medical education.  I hope this a trend that continues.  The future’s bright, the future’s #FOAMed!