Continuing our stories from the front line blogging project around the five main chapters from E-Tivities 2nd edition- Now AVAILABLE, is Simon Kear from Goldsmiths at the University of London. Simon has certainly given instructional 'gold' here for Learning Designers seeking to utilise wikis as their technology for e-tivity design. We thank Simon for this excellent contribution and agree with his thoughts on developing a space for future e-tivity designing collaboration!"
Academic Developer (Technology-Enhanced Learning)
Goldsmiths, University of London
Connect with Simon (links embedded):
LinkedIn: Simon Kear
Blog: Goldsmiths Learning and Teaching News
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your relationship to e-tivities:
I was first introduced to e-tivities in summer 2008, when I was asked to help with placing content on the University of Leicester’s Blackboard VLE for a new suite of distance learning MAs in Politics. Although I understood that e-tivities were online activities, I really had no appreciation at this stage just how powerful and effective these simple devices were. This quickly became clear as I moderated the first cohorts of students, and saw the way carefully designed e-tivities engendered a rich socio-constructivist learning experience (I’d had some e-moderation experience from my teaching at the Open University.)
In 2009 I was appointed Keeper of the Media Zoo at the Beyond Distance Research Alliance, University of Leicester, UK. Gilly was the Director of this e-learning unit. Initially, I provided learning technology support in Carpe Diem workshops led by Ale Armellini, eventually co-facilitating these workshops with Gabi Witthaus for both internal and external clients, including the NHS (National Health Service, UK).
Now in mid-2013, e-tivities and e-moderation have become central to my work in promoting the innovative use of technology in teaching. I co-designed with Ale a short, effective, entry course on e-moderation that has been delivered at several universities in the UK (the course is available as an OER), as well as three times here at Goldsmiths, University of London. I have just finished adapting this course with several new e-tivities for use in training Student Departmental Coordinators to run their own VLE-based communities of peers.
I am also working with several university departments that are interested in seeing e-tivities become embedded in Moodle course areas that traditionally have just delivered content to support face-to-face teaching. These are small but necessary steps at an institution that has worked in a traditional teaching setting for over 100 years.
interview Questions: Technology Choices in Designing e-Tivitites- Examples/Stories/Ideas for using an example technology
Simon's Technology Choice: Wikis
1. What types of e-tivites have you found are suited with this particular technology?
E-tivities are fantastically versatile and flexible devices, and there’s no reason why the structure of Purpose/Task/Response cannot be replicated using any technology. However, the choice of which technology to use is often restricted by the institution itself. If the institution is particularly concerned about using unsupported cloud-based technologies, at a stroke many of the newer platforms become unavailable to us. At least, for now.
By far my favourite technology to use in e-tivities is the wiki, which can be found in all institutional VLEs or LMSs. It is non-contentious, and very effective in generating responses from and engendering engagement between students.
2. How specifically have you utilised this technology for an e-tivity design? Can you give an example to help future designers use this technology in this way?
Although it is asynchronous and text-based, the wiki allows for the construction of knowledge by peers that can then be accessed as a snapshot. So basically is about the level and depth of response from participants that you are trying to elicit.
I am working with a few academic colleagues over the summer to produce a course where at least some of it is a blend. Our university of strongly committed to face-to-face teaching, but one possibility we’re exploring is using an e-tivity to generate a wiki that will then become the focus for discussion in the seminar.
3. What is the hardest thing to get right in the design or use of this technology in e-tivities and what advice would you give to overcome this?
The most important thing it to ensure the e-tivity asks participants for short, concise answers that can be safely contained within a table cell on a single wiki page. For example, asking someone ‘Name one thing that you value about online learning’ will result in a far shorter entry than asking a more open question such as ‘What do you think is positive about online learning’.
I’ve used wikis in this way alongside an ‘overflow’ discussion forum that participants can use for further debate with their peers, emphasising all the time that the wiki is our main focus.
So make sure when you design an e-tivity that uses a wiki that the Task and Response will result in short answers.
And make it clear how this information will be used. I’ve used an e-tivity (‘Common questions from our students and the answers we give’) that produced a wiki snapshot from which I was able to generate a clean PDF file of Student FAQs that was made available from a departmental website for students to access.
I’ve also used a wiki with students in order to generate a Constitution for how we are going to run and manage our online course area (netiquette, etc.).
4. What is the best thing (e.g. access, ease of use, learning style it supports?) about utilising this technology for e-tivities?
There is always a bit of a learning curve with participants when using a wiki for the first time, so your instructions have to be very clear. A screencast is useful for this. I prefer to use a single-page snapshot wiki, as I have lost participants if multiple pages are involved.
Once these bases are covered, then you’ll find the wiki will work on most mobile devices and offer participants the opportunity to contribute as well as read while on the move.
Another advantage is that you can often get the shyer students to contribute to a cell or two in a wiki table, whereas they might be less forthcoming in a blog or discussion forum. I tend to ask contributors to put their initials alongside any entry they make.
5. Do you have any specific tips, hints or what 'not-to-do' with using this technology in e-tivity learning design?
One very simple tip. If you or your reality checkers have trouble following the e-tivity instructions in populating the wiki, your students will have no chance. It’s worth spending the time refining the e-tivity and specifically the wiki itself so the opportunities for ‘getting lost’ are minimised.
Use a table in the wiki to frame the responses. Make the table headings clear. And always populate the first row with an example of how you expect the rest of the wiki to be populated by the participants.
And remember, if you are seeking more verbose answers, you’re probably better off using different technologies such as blogs, discussion forums or voice boards.
6. Do you have any particular stories, examples, case studies, reflections or resources you would like to share with future learning designers with this technology?
We used a wiki to ask postgraduate students to undertake a self-audit of the sort of study skills required for dissertation writing. Simply, they had to indicate whether they were confident, unconfident or unsure about specific aspects of long writing, and the reasons for their response.
This had two immediate benefits. First, it alerted the tutor to areas that might need additional support. Second, it provided reassurance to students who had felt they were ‘suffering alone’ – an honest evaluation as part of a collaborative process with peers showed that, in many cases, they were worried about the same things.
7. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Don’t forget the e-moderator! It’s crucial that any institution promoting the widespread use of e-tivities has in place an effective e-moderation training programme, regardless of the technology used.
In terms of technologies for sparks, I find myself far less constricted in moving beyond the institutional space. And as much as possible, I try to have one thing feed into another. Because there are so many great images and videos available under Creative Commons to use as sparks, I’ve designed and delivered a number of staff workshops around using these resources generally in teaching and learning. And if you haven’t already guessed it, I bring them back in for sessions on open educational resources, which is always a jaw dropper.
The highly effective, activity-based, collaborative nature of e-tivities is an ideal fit for learning in the 21st century. And in the spirit of openness, perhaps Gilly’s website could be a place where we could all share, repurpose and reuse our e-tivity designs.