Thursday, 3 January 2013

Some Responses to OU's Innovating Pedagogy 2012

Submission as Part of Technology Enhanced Learning Module...

The OU Innovating Pedagogy 2012 Report can be downloaded from...

Briefly describe your selected item.

Innovating Pedagogy 2012 is a 38 page OER pdf resource, incorporating a series of short reports focusing on ‘ten innovations that are already in currency but have not yet had a profound influence on education.’ This is the first of what is hoped to be annual Innovation reports.

Why did you choose it?

I read through many of the other supplied readings, but was especially taken with the pointedly futuristic view of this report. It takes as its model David Wood’s 1993 Report to the UK National Commission on Education, ‘A Day in School: 2015 AD’. I like the idea that we can create a vision of how we’ll be Teaching and Learning in 10 years time, or in 20 years time. This is a valuable and creative exercise, which can help us to cut through many of the challenges we face today, whilst having the confidence that our core educational goals are being preserved and enhanced.

On page 7, Sharples and his OU team set the tone for the report…

We explore current and emerging innovations in education for the 21st century, in the hope that it will guide teachers and policy makers in making informed decisions about curriculum design, course development and teaching strategies. (page 7 (end para))

What did it tell you that you already know?

Much of what’s in the report, and indeed in the associated reading and resources is already in place. The educational opportunities and potentials provided through new technology and social networking are there, but they need to be grasped and (crucially) they need to be shaped into true hybrid teaching and learning environments.

The challenge is to create a hybrid system that can offer simple or complex assistance, or perhaps a link to a human tutor where needed, embedded into the structure and content of a study text. P. 9 (last para)

We are already creating such hybrid systems – most of our course materials have been distributed as pdfs (and similarly open digital formats) for years. If we treat pdfs (and similarly open digital formats) as our OER (Open Educational Resource) course source materials, we start with robust and transferrable digital material. Pdfs and similar formats allow for multiple documents to be open at once, on tablets or on pc screens. Pdfs can be annotated, bookmarked and (I would suggest this is very important) text and images (including diagrams and charts) can be stripped out of pdfs to be quoted (always with correct attribution) in the students’ subsequent ‘manifestations’.

Wiki and blog platforms (either within the VLE or on outside platforms) can allow learning groups to collaboratively assimilate the gathered material and ‘manifest it’ (as LIT’s Bernie Goldbach says) to the wider audience. Free platforms like Prezi can achieve similar results. These existing platforms can already incorporate (at least links to) more dynamic ‘mixed media’ such as video. They can already make use of the collaborative potentials of social media (through comments etc).

If we use these platforms (blogs and wikis) within our existing VLE, the human tutor (as described above) can (and should) be directly involved in our ‘hybrid learning system’. Assessment (including data tracking and some analytics) is already built into our VLE. We shouldn’t underestimate our requirement to act as ‘guides on the side’, providing the ‘simple or complex assistance’ which helps our students’ learning (less teaching and more facilitating learning).

One further point relates back to concept, environment and design. Though the designed limitations of current e-book readers as described in the Report may be overcome in future iterations, that doesn’t mean that they can’t already form part of a current hybrid learning system. The same with mobile phones, handheld devices, tablets, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube et al… all of these can already form part of hybrid learning systems, part of our students’ learning environments.

However, for me a laptop currently remains the best device for the creation of an student educational environment, with internet connection, a keyboard, soundcard, speakers and (crucially) a larger screen (for synchronous collation of multiple documents and OERs). I currently have three text documents, three pdfs, a word doc and six webpages open as I construct this blogpost on one of my four laptops.

If we look beyond the nitty-gritties of the current technology, we can see clear potentials and objectives for the next few years. In her DIY U book, Anna Kamanetz quotes Judy Baker at Foothill-De Anza…

The way I see it, higher education, ten, twenty years from now is going to look very different. It won’t be the brick and mortar and the semester and a course in this and a course in that. It’s going to be more outcomes based and skill based, project based. You don’t have to take these sixty courses or whatever it is to be a journalist. Someone will identify your gaps and then you address the gaps, in what-ever way is possible. And that may mean taking an online course from New Zealand, being in a discussion forum with people in Canada, an internship in Mexico with Habitat for Humanity. You just need to get the knowledge and skills whatever way you can and then test out or present a portfolio. And when you add it all up, a few years later, you actually are ready to be a good journalist. (p. 133 (para 2))

This is the future of education for me – a seamless integration of (possibly interwoven and matrixed) undergrad courses, part-timers at work in your industry and conventional full-time students, postgrads, distance learners, special purpose award students and lifelong learners all learning together.

The potential for this model, the demand for this model already exists. The need for this model exists amongst the learners, but our education system can afford to complacently ignore that need because our system is comfortably fuelled by thriving CAO numbers and government funding.

In her Aug 2011 blogpost ‘Humanities Grad School and its Discontents’, Anna Kamanetz quotes William Pannapacker…

“In order to reform higher education, many of us will have to leave it, perhaps temporarily, but with the conviction that the fields of human activity and values we care about—history, literature, philosophy, languages, religion, and the arts - will be more likely to flourish outside of academe than in it. As more and more people are learning, universities do not have a monopoly on the “life of the mind.”"

I think it’s possible that many of us may have to move out of the conventional IoT sector in order to pursue our Teaching and Learning potentials.


What did it tell you that was new?

I’d never heard of latent semantic analysis…

Technology-enabled feedback can include immediate automated responses to open assignments and written student reports. The computational technique of latent semantic analysis processes a corpus of text (such as previous student work over a range of marks, or a set of model answers) to uncover similarities in meaning

between words and phrases, then uses this to simulate human judgements of the coherence and style of a new piece of student writing. (P. 13 (para 5))

The badges idea was new to me. With its immediate association with the Boy Scouts, it strikes me as highly appropriate for young children, but not for third level. I thought the conceptualization behind this was fundamentally flawed and very badly worked out. However, the idea has some merit. I was struck immediately with its similarity to the military ribbons system – where achievements, merits, long-service and awards can be discretely displayed within a simple coherent colour-coded system.
Briefly discuss a question or puzzle that you have in the light of your reading.

The Report mentions disruption twice…

In compiling the report it became clear that the innovations are not independent, but fit together into a new and disruptive form of education that transcends boundaries between formal and informal settings, institutional and self-directed learning, and nd traditional education providers and commercial organisations. (p. 6 (para 3)) (my italics).

If education is ripe for disruption, it may be that the assessment of training and the offering of examination services at higher levels of education will provide a route by which publishers can develop credibility in the assessment and award of an ever wider range of qualification products based around their content offerings. (p.12 (para 3)) (my italics).

I’m not arguing against the fact that our current environment, fiscal, political, sectoral, technological, social is undergoing (and will continue to undergo) disruptive change. We are in a storm and we must cope with the storm in order to survive and to thrive (through the success of our students). Coping with disruptive change is what we do. In order to cope, we are agile, we attempt to lead, we attempt to be ‘ahead of the curve’ if possible, but we do this whilst preserving and enhancing our educational goals, knowing that therein lies the success and full potential of our students.

But I question whether ‘disruptive forms of education’ is a concept I’d value? Neither do I believe that it’s useful to believe that all ‘education is ripe for disruption’. I think we must be keenly aware that the OU operate largely within a UK environment, and the UK’s education model (at every level) is in tatters. Without being complacent, we need to recognize that we work in an Institute, in an IoT sector in Ireland, where innovation, autonomy and problem solving are valued (even if they’re not wholly supported always). Our environment is not perfect, but that doesn’t mean we have to continually defer to a huge, neighbouring and defective model.

We must face the challenging and disruptive storm, whilst having the confidence that our core educational goals are being preserved and enhanced.

I don’t believe we are the storm? Disruption for its own sake will lead to many chaotic and broken educational models, thousands of students who are unable to achieve their full potential.


Kamanetz, A., (2010) DIY U Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education. Chelsea Green Publishing. White River Jct., Vermont

Sharples, M. et al (2012). Innovating Pedagogy 2012: Open University Innovation Report 1. Milton Keynes: The Open University.



1 comment:

  1. Ever wanted to get free Google+ Circles?
    Did you know you can get these AUTOMATICALLY & TOTALLY FREE by registering on Add Me Fast?