Monday, 6 January 2014

What I learned in 2013

Shortly before Christmas, I followed a #edchatie twitter chat. This twitter chat, for Irish educators, takes place every Monday evening. While I am aware of it, I don't normally participate, because 1) the time doesn't suit me, 2) active participants are mostly from primary or secondary education, with minimal HE discussion, 3) although I have an interest in primary and secondary education as a parent, I haven't felt encouraged to engage from that perspective. However, I do like to drop in from time to time.

On this occasion, I introduced myself as usual, and said that I would be mostly lurking. I got an immediate response from @fboss, the convenor, who suggested that I should try to participate, and I agreed that I would. The topic on the evening was #whatilearntin2013. The stream was full of positive reflections on the year.

Maybe it was the time of year, end of semester blues, a particularly challenging year, or maybe I was just a bit down, but I could not think of a single positive thing to contribute. I was full of cynical thoughts, reflecting on the state of Irish education - cutbacks at all levels, reduced staffing and resources, teachers on strike, children being let down, students fighting against possible reintroduction of fees, increased workloads for HE staff (academic and admin)...

I kept quiet!

Over the Christmas break, this negativity has bothered me and I realise that I need to start back to work with a much more positive outlook. To start, I want to reflect on some things I did learn in 2013, and some of the more positive experiences.

For me, 2013 was the year of learning about, and from, MOOCs. I hadn't paid much attention to them before, but in 2013 they were hard to ignore.

Almost exactly one year ago, at the 13th Durham Blackboard Users' Conference, I heard Jeremy Knox speak about cMOOCs and xMOOCs, and talking about the Edinburgh MOOC on E-Learning and Digital Cultures, offered through Coursera and starting at the end of January. I decided that I would sign up. The Edinburgh MOOC, #edcmooc, was the first one I signed up to, and the only one I have completed. Others I have dipped into, and some I have not started at all. But hey, that's the nature of MOOCs, right?

I also read a lot about MOOCs, mainly through commentators such as: Audrey Watters, Martin Weller, Mike Caulfield, George Siemens among others. I am certainly no expert, but at least I can hold my own in a conversation about MOOCs (and anybody who knows me will know that I don't do spoofing).

I have learned that creating and offering a MOOC is a lot of work and resource intensive. But I probably already knew that, from a background of online course development and teaching.

Open Badges
The second new area for me was that of Open Badges. I was aware of the work, in particular, of Doug Belshaw with the Mozilla Foundation, but 2013 was the year that I started to learn a little more. I signed up for the Open Badges MOOC, and even earned my first badge, but I didn't get beyond the first couple of weeks. I did learn a lot from Cathy Davidson, co-rounder of HASTAC who gave a fantastic interview as part of one of the MOOC webinars. Cathy will be giving a webinar as part of our Coimbra Group Series this month. Follow @iainmacl for details.

This is an area that I am still pondering and trying to work through.

One experience that I am quite happy with was the introduction of digital badges to the module I co-ordinate on Learning Technologies, using the Blackboard Achievements Tool. Part of the assessment for this module is to demonstrate a set of technical competencies: create a podcast, produce a video, construct a Prezi, etc. this year I awarded an open badge for each competency demonstrated, and I think it added a little motivation (to achieve the badge), competition, and fun.

Other Achievements
Of course, every experience in 2013 has contributed to my learning, and it's good to look back and acknowledge some of the highlights of the year. Among these are:

Looking Forward
So now I feel that I can look forward to 2014 and all the things I'm going to learn. I look forward to learning from my colleagues in CELT and NUIG, old and new. I also look forward to learning from and with you, my PLN.


David Hopkins said...

Open Badge to show "technical competencies" ... totally agree and hope to get more of this done this year too!

I too could only think of negative and/or less positive things when I reflected on 2013, but I also came up with a long list of things I'm proud of achieving last year ... many of which are more about my role as an LT in general as much as the specifics of the day job. I surmised that I need to keep better track of day-to-day achievements, for nothing else other than appraisals and re-grading applications ;-)

All the best, David

Sharon Flynn said...

Thanks for your comment David. I did read your reflection as well and I know we've got a lot of interests in common.

Now that I've written up my review of 2013, I do feel that I can look forward to 2014 with a more positive attitude.

One of the main things I intend to do is to get back to more regular blogging. Looking back at some of my posts from the year was very useful and a good way to keep track.

Hope to cross paths again in 2014, Sharon