Friday, September 28, 2018

Some Advice for On-line Educators Part II - "Don't Lecture"! via @MFPaulsen

Following up from my post earlier this week where I mentioned some advice given in a 2003 book by Professor Morten Flate Paulsen, comes some further pedagogical recommendations from Prof Paulsen. These are based on surveys he conducted in Scandinavian countries in the late 1990s and early 2000s - still relevant today I think:

  • Have Clear Objectives
  • Maintain as Much Flexibility as You Can
  • Encourage Participation
  • Maintain a Non-authoritarian Style
  • Be Objective
  • Don't Expect Too Much
  • Don't Rely on Offline Materials
  • Promote Private Conversations as well as those in the conference
  • Find Unifying Threads
  • Use Simple Assignments
  • Make The Material Relevant
  • Required Contributions
  • Present Conflicting Opinions
  • Invite Visiting Experts
  • Don't Lecture
  • Request Responses

Most educators will agree that the points above will probably apply in all educational settings, but I am drawn first to two (which are highlighted above).

Maintain a Non-authoritarian Style
Prof Paulsen suggests that it is "usually better to avoid the "authority figure" role when teaching online, especially with adults". There is no doubt about it, but already I feel as if I have total control in my new on-line classes - in Adobe Connect (the tool we use to deliver live classes) I am the "Host", while the students are "Participants". It's hard not to be "authoritarian" in such an environment. I have not yet grasped the system where control can be handed over to students - I need to get more comfortable and relaxed with Adobe Connect before I start giving control (authority) to students. Perhaps it shouldn't, but being a teacher in any learning environment does convey a certain natural authority - it's hard to overcome this in my experience.

Don't Lecture
My job title is "Lecturer in Computing". I am a Lecturer and it is hard to swallow a "Don't Lecture" recommendation. However, Prof Paulsen tells us that "Experience strongly suggests that a long, elaborate, logically coherent sequence of comments yields silence. Instead, use open-ended remarks, examples, and weaving to elicit comment and other views". I have certainly already adapted the "weaving" approach. My timetable says that I start with a two hour lecture, and follow this with a one hour tutorial. I never stick to this restriction, and I like weave in and out of short lecture/talk and practice. This is relatively easy to do in a module on Programming, where students are writing code almost all the time in my classes. For the first two weeks, I went through neither of the sets of lecture notes (PowerPoint slides) - I only dipped in and out when needed. I hope to keep this up. One of the best courses I ever attended was a CIPD Train-the-Trainer course. Our Lecturer/Trainer gave us a printed copy of her PowerPoint slides at the end of the 10 day course - we didn't even know they existed!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Watching Recordings of My Class - Ugh! #vlog08

As my new on-line classes are recorded, I took some time this week to watch and listen to my own class recording. It was not what I expected...!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Monday, September 24, 2018

Some Advice for On-line Educators Part I via @MFPaulsen

Image source:
Now that I am heading into my second week as an on-line educator, I am reminded of some great advice from Professor Morten Flate Paulsen given many years ago that still stands today. In his book "Online Education and Learning Management Systems" (published in 2003) - Paulsen tells us: 

What distinguishes online instruction from entertainment
or recreation is the purposefulness of the designers
and developers in provoking certain intelligent
responses to the learning materials, context,
and environment.

I like the choice of words like "purposefulness" and "provoking", and the distinction of on-line learning from "entertainment". In 2003 when these words were written, there was no YouTube or Netflix - online entertainment was in its infancy. Today - it is mainstream, and it is more important than ever to keep this distinction visible to educators and students. I have often heard lecturers say that they are teachers - not entertainers. At the same time I appreciate that (as in my classes) participating in an on-line class for three hours is a long time. I try to be light hearted at times, but there is serious work to be done. I have yet to figure out how to do "purposefulness" and be "provoking" in my on-line class, but it is certainly something I think all on-line educators should take on board. 

Paulsen also recommended:

When developing and delivering instruction,
whether online or not, the use of technology is secondary
to well-designed learning goals and objectives.

The emphasis on the word "secondary" is mine. It's too easy to get carried away with the technology. In last week's class I had three computer screens, plus lots of applications open. I felt like I was in a sound studio. I'm decreasing to two for tonight's class and will see how I get on. I also found my screens very cluttered - too much going on. Adobe Connect is a brilliant tool, but it cannot replace "well-designed learning goals and objectives". I am a firm believer that goals and objectives will be subtly different for an on-line class compared to a classroom. While the overall module Learning Outcomes should be the same, the delivery and content should be developed with the on-line environment in mind. Simply reproducing lectures notes used in the classroom on-line does not work well in my view. How can module material (eg slides) developed for on environment (the classroom) be unchanged for a different environment (on-line)? Many educators believe they are interchangeable and soldier on regardless. The module (Programming for Big Data) that I am teaching is not being delivered by me in a classroom (it is being by others) - so it will be interesting to compare experiences at the end of the semester.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Are you ready? #elearning #cisco

In late 1999/early 2000, in just Cisco's second wave of brand advertising they asked the question:

Over 70 million people are receiving an education on the Internet this year.
One day, training for every job on Earth will be available on the Internet.
Are you ready?

At this time I was working in Global Services in SmartForce, and quotes such as this were manna from heaven for a company that sold eLearning content in what was then the very early days of on-line education. I recall a lot of technical issues compounded by the Y2K phenomenon in delivering training content over the Internet. Most companies still purchased their content from SmartForce via CD-ROM - at the time many were just not equipped with fast Internet connections.

Almost 19 years later I feel the same question can still be asked. Millions of people are learning on-line (over 16 million people have watched my videos alone). This year I am finally involved in delivering a course on-line - but this is to just 35 students out of over 100 that I am teaching this semester. Most of our College students still come to the classroom - but the on-line figures are growing. YouTube, which did not exist in the year 2000, has become the "Go To" location for learning anything from Maths, to fixing a tire, to removing contact lenses, or to learning a programming language. While this can be regarded as informal learning (it cannot be tracked or certified), it is taking a much increased proportion of the time that people take for learning.

We have not yet reached "training for every job on Earth" being "available on the Internet" - otherwise classrooms everywhere would not be required. Having delivered a class on-line for the first time ever this week I feel that while Cisco's advertising question "Are you ready" is getting closer to a "Yes" answer - we still have a long way to go for this prediction to come through.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Monday, September 17, 2018

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Weekend in Amsterdam #Learning

Amsterdam is just 1 hour and 20 minutes flight time from Dublin - but this weekend is my first ever visit (not counting an airport stopover) to this wonderful city. I can't believe it has taken me over 58 years to finally decide to visit the largest city in The Netherlands. It is always wonderful to experience and learn from other cultures. We have so mush in common, yet there are so many differences. The English language is very common everywhere - we were greeted in English and spoken to in English all the time. In fact, I don't recall anyone greeting or talking to us in Dutch. In several of the places we went, signs were in English only - I wonder what the Dutch think of this?

Canals of course are everywhere - we took an evening cruise, but this was not particularly interesting as you will miss a lot in the dark. One thing I will remember it for is the Worst Pizza Ever, which was served up to us on the barge. Other highlights included a visit to the (very) crowded Anne Frank's house, the Red Light District, the Heineken Experience, the Rijks Museum, Rembrandt's House, and finally the Jewish Museum and Holocaust Memorial. References to the Holocaust are very matter-of-fact - over 104,000 Jews were transported from The Netherlands to death camps. In Anne Frank's house there is not actually that much to see - but being in the same rooms that this wonderful writer hid in for two years before her own death in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp was an eerie feeling. I've experienced it before at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin the almost complete silence that visitors to the museum wonder around in. Contrast this to the noisy Rijks Museum.

Amsterdam for the most part seems to be a city of young people, with a lot of them cycling around all the time. Bicycles are everywhere, and I was interested to learn that smaller motorcycles can go in the cycle lanes. No helmets are required on smaller scooters - though I saw plenty on bigger ones not wearing helmets either. I didn't sample any of the head shops that are everywhere - I was not keen to learn about being stoned! I'd love to go back - a weekend is not enough time to enjoy this city. Below is our Heineken Karaoke Experience - "Tulips in Amsterdam"!

Friday, September 07, 2018

Training for on-line class delivery finished! #vlog04

Last training session with ET was today - hopefully I'm ready for first class next Monday week - here's my latest video diary:

Monday, September 03, 2018

All-Ireland Football Finals Winning Margins (1892-2018) #Analytics #GAA

Yesterday's All-Ireland Final winning margin between Dublin and Tyrone of 6 points was the biggest since 2007 when Kerry beat Cork by 10 points. In 132 All-Ireland finals*, this was only the 10th time the winning margin was 6 points. Many football fans (me included) expected a bigger margin as the Dubs have been rampant this year. But a closer look at the winning margins since 1892 shows that overall the margins are quite small - the vast majority of finals are won by 4 points or less.

Click/Tap Image to Enlarge.
Data Source: Wikipedia.
The most common winning margin is 3 points (22 times), followed by 1 point (20 times) and 4 points (19 times). My €5 bet @ 7/2 with Paddy Power yesterday that Dublin would win by 1-3 points looked a good bet on the balance of probability. As you can see on the chart above, huge winning margins are rare. The biggest winning margin ever of 19 points was Cork's 6-6 to 1-2 win over Antrim in 1930. In more recent times Kerry's 5-11 to Dublin's 0-9 (17 points) was the biggest winning margin since Mayo's 18 point win over Laois (4-11 to 0-5) in 1936.

One point margins are common (20 times), though incredibly five of these occurred in the past nine finals. Unlucky for Mayo as they have lost three finals (2013, 2016, and 2017) by the minimum amount - all to Dublin.

So - if you like a bet on things like winning margins, be sure to look at the probabilities as well as checking on a team's form before you part with your money. In the long run, betting on winning margins of 1-4 points will pay off.

*Finals between 1887 and 1891 not counted as a goal was then worth 5 points.