Thursday, October 10, 2013

MOOCing continues

So next week I begin my next Coursera MOOC experience which is a Philosophy course from Edinburgh University. Although no additional texts are necessary I have downloaded to my Kindle the text that goes with the course as I am sure I will want to refer to it.

When I was completing my MEd I became aware of a huge gap in my understanding of ideas from the domain of Philosophy. So much of the literature I was reading touched on philosophical theory which was basically absent from any of my other studies. So this MOOC work is a very real professional development opportunity for me as a lecturer on a teacher education programme.

I am trying not to give into an urge to work next on Dinosaurs 101 probably an essential course for early childhood teachers!

Thursday, October 3, 2013


MOOCs have been a common topic in articles and blogs about distance and blended learning for a few years now. I have toyed with the idea of looking further into these because I am involved in teaching a course that uses a blended learning approach and because I  have used a range of online and blended courses for my own education over the years. Some good, some appalling.

Initially I was attracted to a course being run by Moodle - it's first MOOC. Moodle is used by a number of schools and tertiary institutions ( including the one I work for) as a learning platform or LMS for students. Other organisations choose to use Blackboard, WebCT or Cecil and you may have heard of those if you havent heard of Moodle. Now this isnt an advert for Moodle so I think thats enough background.

I have managed to learn a bit about Moodle on  my own but not nearly enough to make it really useful.
So I enrolled in the four week online course which has just finished. It had over 8000 participants from all over the world - more than 50 languages used. It was more time consuming than I thought it would be but that was mainly because I was incorporating ideas from other students into my work as well as completing the weekly tasks. The final week was most challenging because I got behind while getting marking done at work. But all PD can be like that. For the most part it was manageable and inspiring although any possibility of being part of a learning community was made
impossible by the sheer scale of the enrollment. For me that was OK. I learn well in a distance environment. For others this didnt work.

I was further seduced into the world of MOOCs by a mention on Facebook of a MOOC that would analyse connections between literature, film and online games and the topic was Lord of the Rings. They had me at Literature .

The course is called "Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative" and is run on Coursera and taught by Vanderbilt University. I thought it might be a useful way to compare two different types of MOOCs and learn a little more about them.

Secretly I also wanted an excuse to learn  to play online games. I was fooling myself as this aspect of the course was far too time consuming. Luckily the course did not require participation in the game unless one wanted a Distinction certificate. I did want one but it was not going to happen. So each week I watch several 4-20 minute video chats and lectures. Just perfectly sized to fit in a lunch break or after work or after dinner. Each has a mini quiz and each week ends with a larger quiz. 

I have really enjoyed this non ECE work and an opportunity to drag out books from previous study as we compare Tolkien and Keats, LOTR and Northrop Frye's Hero archetype.

Changing visions for the Blog and the Art of Awareness

I was aiming to have a new post on this Blog at least each month but a few things have got in the way - like marking! Another obstacle has been the desire to write about subjects that are not strictly ECE related. So I have been pondering another change of name for the Blog but Im not sure yet. So I have decided to allow myself to post things that are of interest to me as an ECE person in the hope that they will also be of interest to anyone who stops off here to read this Blog. Still a work in progress after all these years... but I am sure that is reflective of Education in general.

So here I am with a note in the diary to post something this month and I find myself with two main topics I want to share with you. The first is a book I am reading by Deb Curtis and Margie Carter called           The Art of Awareness. 

 I have read or rather skimmed through this book before and enjoyed it but am rather luxuriously reading it properly today ( in the sunshine) through the lens of wondering what would be useful for ECE teachers to know about observation. The other topic I am going to touch on today is  MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses. I have been enrolled in two of these courses in the last month and am about to start my third.

The Art of Awareness

I am not going to review this book here as there are several reviews online and in the literature. Instead, I will make comments over time as I reflect on what I have read today and make connections with other readings and ideas. It is an excellent book that could be used  (with some adaptations to suit the philosophy of a particular curriculum framework or philosophical context) in pre-service teacher education or as a part of professional development for teachers, either with an external facilitator or by using the book as a guide within a team of teachers. I particularly liked the thread that weaves throughout the book, arguing that observation is something an intentional teacher does every day, and which is not carried out just for the purposes of documenting assessment. When I see both students and teachers in centres I wonder if they have that same understanding.

Note on a boardHere's a question for you. When you make notes about a child                           
or take a photo, are you already intending to document immediately? Or are you
 gathering information that will later be viewed and discussed in the context of a
 range of information so that some documentation can be created?

I firmly believe we should document formally only when we have a real story to tell. And these stories usually take time. This is perhaps a real challenge for teachers who have been told to get a certain number of assessments per month into children's portfolios. But it is not just a problem for teachers and management to consider. The Education Review Office is the rationale given by many teachers for having a regular target for stories in terms of quantity. They are trying to provide accountability. Can we really support learning and provide accountability with the same documentation?