Reflective post on presentation feedback

Thanks for the feedback classmates! In this post I am supposed to respond and make changes as appropriate. The feedback here did not really suggest much in the way of changes so I will respond to it as it is. I will also include some comments from the students I interviewed as I think that some of their comments show gaps in my thinking and plans.

One theme in the feedback was that I had a good use of Web 2.0 tools in my planned activity. From a broad perspective I think this is true. The literature and features of the tools clearly show the potential, and some pitfalls, for the formation of a collaborative community. However, I feel that I have not yet bridged the gap between what the general concepts in what the literature is saying and the context specific voices of the students. For example, I had planned some cognitive scaffolding in the paraphrase skills, some technical scaffolding in lab training sessions, and affective scaffolding by being encouraging, socially present and making colourful posters. In the interviews students were not sure of the scope of the proposed activity and talked of it as a programme or website. They still talked of it as something to ‘use’ rather than a place to ‘be’. Therefore what I am missing in my scaffolding is something relating to student expectations about how it would work. I will need to convey the idea that the learning can come not only from the use of the posted content, but through the supportive interactions between students to create ways of deepening and expressing their understanding. I’m thinking of designing a training activity to get this point across before training them on how to use the features of the Twiki.

I have already noticed some extra motivational factors that students pointed out in the interviews that might help me to encourage others – for example, when asked if she would be comfortable participating online, one student pointed out that she could understand things better when she saw how other students wrote about something. Maybe having some quotes like this from other students on the Twiki might help students to encourage each other to use it rather than just me. That “What’s in it for me?” page could include more input from the students.

Some feedback comments said the activity would be good to see in practice and I have been tempted to go with it largely as it is planned. However, I will meet with the course teacher to make a rough idea of how it will go, but also leave flexibility for the students to influence the design. This is challenging for me because I like to plan ahead, and traditional teaching practices often encourage the teacher to be in charge. But to make something belong to the community and reduce the traditional power relations, I think it has to be built more by the community itself.

The concept map was described as detailed and complex. I think this is a positive comment, but I do wonder about the complexity of concept maps. There is a balance between simplicity and ‘map shock’. If things are reduced to far the map can look simple, but it covers over the problems that an educator needs to consider. For example, to say that use of a tool leads to greater communication sound intuitively appealing, but without further detail on what process leads to that communication, then the plan can be incomplete, an ultimately ineffective. Even more damaging is if the students are then blamed for it. I think I will need to listen very carefully to the students and let them scaffold me into understanding what they need and build it from there.

Shortening the presentation time would be easy enough to do – if I know in advance what my time allowance is, then I will speak to it.

I have still not solved the problem of how to motivate the stronger students who in helping others do extra work, but for no credit. That’s one of the up coming questions I’m going to ask them!

Well SLT Tweeties, it’s been a journey, and only the start I think. Best of luck with your projects, and feel free to stay in touch!

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Assignment 2 Prezi

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Something interesting to think about when designing

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Prezi for teaching essay structure

This is a bit of a retro post, but I think it has possibilities. I can see a use for Prezi as a teaching tool in addition to just being a presentation tool. The following is what I wrote just after I discovered it…

I’m looking at Prezi and how it presents information. I realise I need to be more aware of the similarities and differences between conventional academic writing and the variation in Prezi presentation possibilities. There is a linear narrative through both styles, but the difference is the linear visual presentation on paper in contrast to the varying geographical location on a Prezi page. This variation can assist in pointing out the grouping of related concepts. I highlighted the words ‘in contrast to’ because that was the moment I thought, if this were in a Prezi, then those words would be on their own to highlight the contrast, and not be embedded in the sentence where the skilled reader would clearly see them, but the less skilled reader might miss them. I wonder what effect this would have on teaching students to write. Just like this blog, the Prezi writing style seems to be characterized by a more conversational tone.

From watching tutorials on Prezi I see how they follow the structure of concept maps where key words and linking relationships are expressed as the central messages. The opportunity to use different size scales also facilitates being able draw attention to a particular point. Frames allow structure to be organized visually without having to make the written words in a sentence do all the work.

Figure 1 shows an essay displayed in Prezi a basic essay structure outline (left), and example essay (centre) and an analysis of one of the body paragraphs (right). The topic sentences and conclusion sentences highlighted.

Figure 1.

Example of an essay structure with highlights for topic and conclusion sentences

There is a slide show for the break down of the body paragraph. By separating the parts of the paragraph spatially, students may be able to see how a paragraph is made up of different sections from the topic sentence, to supporting detail and to the conclusion sentence.

Part of the limitation of Prezi in teaching essay structure is the limited use of colour options for arrows and markers. This would make it difficult to highlight other sections of the essay. Then again, for the purpose of keeping things simiple, that might be a good idea.

I will test the use of this out with my student to see if they find it more helpful for their understanding of essay structure.

Feel free to look at the whole prezi.

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WIP (Wiki In Progress)

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Analysis of Cmap tool use

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Hegemony – The elephant in the room of social process

In a tweet on May 5th 2011, Vickel said, “Hegemony has no place in a social process”. That made me reflect on social process in education in my experience.

Hegemony = “influence or authority over others”. (“Hegemony,” 2011)

Part of the Web 2.0 enthusiasm is based on the ideal that everyone can feel free to share, and it removes the traditional hierarchies. For example, Skiba (2008, p. 112) in a review of the use of Twitter in nursing education stated, “Students could immediately reflect upon their experiences and share them with others in the class and with the instructor.” However, people may not feel as free to share due to the social relations between social participants. For example, Reed (2005, pp. 232-233) mentions a number of examples of people modifying blogs or taking longer to post in them in the first place as a result of the visitors to their blogs.

The focus on the joy of sharing in technology mediated social environments does not acknowledge the numerous and inherent power imbalance that exists in educational contexts, for example between students and students, and students and instructors within a class. The elephant shaped word cloud lists many others. For example, assessment is imposed on many social processes in education and this directs students in ways that they may have little choice in. A common question students ask me about their assignment is “What does the teacher want?” not “What do I want?” Often a teacher will ask a class a question, but not actually give them enough time to think about it and answer.

There is pressure to get the ‘right’ answers – those held by the teacher. Many students I have talked with during my tertiary educational experiences knew that despite being offered intellectual freedom, that unless they aligned their eureka moments to the interests of the teacher, they could kiss their A goodbye! It was never spoken about openly in class, but it was always the elephant in the room.

It is harder to see this as a teacher. The other day when I was offering students the chance to look at a new online tool, they readily agreed. I felt like there had been full negotiation. I found out later that one of them was not really interested and did not see the use of it. I realised students are going to agree with my suggestions because it is very difficult to say no to someone in a higher position. I thought I was offering a real choice, and I was not even their teacher! The strange thing is that I am so aware of it as a student, and yet still often blind to it as an instructor.

I think many of the social processes that include power relations in learning contexts do not fade out because they are happening in an online environment. Power is embedded in the language we use.

As educators we have to be careful not to blind ourselves to our own influence and the existing influences in our contexts. Perhaps to increase our ability to see the elephant it would be useful to ask students what makes them feel less constrained by power, but would they feel free to answer? A colleague of mine commented on the achievement of social process free of hegemony between people of different positions, but it took years. I think social process can be free of hegemony eventually, but it takes work to get it there.

References

Hegemony.  (2011). Merriam-Webster. Retrieved May 18, 2011, from: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hegemony

Reed, A. (2005). My blog is me: Texts and persons in the UK online journal culture (and anthropology). Ethnos, 70(2), 220-42. doi: 10.1080/00141840500141311

Skiba, D. J. (2008). Nursing education 2.0: Twitter and tweets. Nursing Education Perspectives, 29(2), 110-112.

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