Tuesday, 23 June 2015

The power of networks: Mobilising interest in the Twitter in Education special issue

A preamble

A fortnight ago, we posted a Call For Papers where we have outlined ideas for submissions to the E-learning and Digital Media journal.  Of course we had to tweet it. This blog post is about what happened next, because our networks have been amazing - talk about the bush telegraph of the 21st century!

Within a very short space of time, we had a very sizeable group of people who have put up their hands to be involved:

The blog, our starting point, enabled us to get the CFP word out the same day it was approved by the editors of the journal E-learning and Digital Media

Given the focus of the special issue, Twitter made it very easy to identify colleagues who would potentially be interested in writing and reviewing for the special issue - that is, educators who use twitter.

Using Twitter

Reviewing our followers/following lists, we tagged in likely candidates to alert them to the call. From there, the magic spread. In the same way as the old advertisement for shampoo: "She told someone, and he told someone, and she told someone and so on and so on and so on". Like a chain letter, the word spreads. (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcskckuosxQ)

One strategy was to send out a RT with a @likely_writer_or_reviewer post - it has been incredibly effective at reaching people interested in contributing to the Special Issue, because within hours, the RT and tags spread. We've now established a hashtag: #TwitterEDSI
Within days, we achieved international reach, thanks partly to colleagues at the University of York - an example of this is in the images posted above (@UoY ELDT).

While we also posted the CFP on LinkedIn and via our faculty newslist, nothing compares to Twitter's reach and of course its special relevance to this publication. And we are very grateful for those who have retweeted, favourited, and made a fuss. It is even in a Paper.li curation!  Thank you!

We do, however, want to encourage Twitter-skeptics to contribute also. If you want to dig into some of the hype around social media (Twitter specifically), we welcome your critical perspective. We also want reviewers - they are absolutely critical! Please sign up!


A couple of colleagues have said: "I really want to support the special issue, but I don't tweet"
My response: If you are an experienced reviewer and know a quality article when you read one, we need you. You do not need to be a Twitter expert to evaluate clarity of ideas, and coming fresh to the idea of twitter can enable critique of assumptions made (the flip-side of the hype/skeptic writer). After all, not all readers of the Special Issue will be tweeps.

In terms of authors' enquiries so far, we have had a couple and would like to clarify:

1. Word limit - text types.

The journal has this to say:

The journal publishes five kinds of submissions:

- Quality academic articles (generally 6000-8000 words);
- National and international policy reports (unspecified length);
- Policy research notes (2000 words maximum)
- Reviews (1000 words maximum)
- Interchanges (interviews, right of reply etc.)
So,: about 6000 words for a full academic article, or 2000 words for an explanation of research and practice in progress.

2. Peer review process: for those new to it

For those of you new to what this means, it is very common practice for peer review of one's work to take place. This process supports quality and authors can grow hugely through this - especially if the reviewers provide feedforward advice and the author is new to this process. Essentially, it is usual for two people to review each article. The author then has an opportunity to develop the work for publication as a result of this feedback so the journal can be sure that academic rigour is assured. 

3. Writing an article

There is a kind of formula to this. The title should be engaging and short, while the abstract is the 'window' to the article. It needs to tell readers the context/field, 'problem' or focus, methods, key findings and significance. This should also entice a reader to read the whole thing. If it's written well, it is a snapshot of everything that follows- an introduction to set the scene, a review of literature that informs the study, information on how it was undertaken (methods and analysis), what the evidence had to say, and discussion about it what it means. The conclusion is the take home message. Overall, the article should tell a story - preferably in the active voice. 

Ask colleagues you KNOW will be critical to give you feedback before you submit. It's better if your colleagues can drive a truck through it than a reviewer... That way, you get to refine it before submitting it. It can be arduous; writing clearly and simply to tell a complex but readable story is incredibly hard. 

Advice from general editors of the journal

An exciting thing is that if we have an embarrassment of article riches, we could have TWO issues of the journal! And let's not stop there - we could aim for a monograph of the best articles that follows that... Let's take over the world!

Due date for submissions

Please check the due date - it is 26 February 2016. We have deliberately given a long lead-in time to provide the space for quality research and submissions. Start now!!!

If you have questions or you want to review, please contact either Dianne (diforbes[at]waikato.ac.nz) or Noeline (n.wright[at]waikato.ac.nz)

Monday, 15 June 2015

Research strand at ULearn2015

This blog post is really to alert you to the ULearn15 conference in Auckland in early October. I have the responsibility (ably supported by CORE Education staff) of organising the Research Strand Day, as I have done for a couple of years.

Essentially, the Research Strand is a showcase of praxis - investigations of research on practice in educational contexts. The day provides delegates with exposure to current New Zealand research in education. This research may be from the CORE e-fellows' projects, from teachers writing masters theses, or even undertaking some Teaching as Inquiry of their own. It might be a presentation by academics who are working with teachers in schools, or doctoral students presenting their works in progress. Past presenters tat the Research strand are featured on the site, if you scroll down to find a couple of short videos.

The day begins with a keynote by Dr Ann Liebermann who will address this question: What do we know about Teaching Leadership, and what's to gain? 

The Research Strand provides, in succinct 20min presentations, windows into hot-off-the-press and emerging research. This year, we are likely (as we did last year) to have enough to fill three rooms of presentations spread over two sessions. In 2014, the rooms were bursting at the seams with delegates wanting to hear about presenters' research.

One of the other features of the day is the one day registration fee for the Research Strand. So, if you are time-poor but want to gorge on current research updates, this day could be for you! And for $230, you get to soak up what people are thinking, learning and doing. You also get fed really well. ULearn is renowned for being a conference that looks after people.

So, if you're in need of a digital update, a research findings fix, a bit of time in Auckland and huge networking opportunity among like-minded education colleagues, then check it out. More than fifteen hundred delegates can't be wrong!

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Call for papers: E-learning and Digital Media Special Issue on Twitter in Education

We are pleased to announce the Call For Papers as guest editors in an upcoming special issue of E-Learning and Digital Media, now published by Sage. We want to draw this to your attention in the hope that you will:
  • Submit an article for publication in the special issue
  • Assist with disseminating the call to interested colleagues
  • Volunteer your services as a reviewer for this special issue
  • Look out for the special issue when it appears - to read, respond and share

More about the Special Issue on Twitter in Education:

Submission Due Date: 26 February 2016

Guest Editors: Drs Noeline Wright & Dianne Forbes

Twitter in education: Microblogging is now an accepted part of the social media landscape. But what does it look like in educational settings for educational purposes? What is it used for, what impact does it have, and who for?

This call for papers for E-Learning and Digital Media aims to collect articles that directly focus on how and why Twitter is used educationally. Explorations that dig deeply into its affordances for learning as well as examples of practice across sectors (from compulsory schooling to various tertiary and informal learning contexts) are welcome.  A range of methodological approaches are also welcome.

This issue on Twitter in education will bring together examples of practice and thinking that help us understand how these social media tools are appropriated for specific educational purposes and the extent to which they address issues of impact, which must be defined in relation to the context under scrutiny. In addition to practice-based submissions, we welcome literature reviews and theoretical considerations of Twitter use in education.

Recommended Topics
Topics for discussion in this special issue include (but are not limited to) the following:
  • First experiences of Twitter in education: Newbie perspectives
  • Student perspectives on learning through and with Twitter
  • Professional learning through and with Twitter
  • Twitter as used by primary and secondary teachers
  • Twitter in Teacher education contexts
  • Twitter in Tertiary Education contexts
  • Language learning with Twitter
  • Synchronous TweetChats in education
  • Theorising Twitter for education
  • Literature reviews on Twitter in education
  • Comparative studies of Twitter and other social media tools for learning purposes.

Submission Procedure
Authors are invited to submit papers for this special issue on Twitter in education on or before February 26, 2016. All submissions must be original and may not be under review by another publication. Interested authors should consult the journal’s guidelines for manuscript submissions.

All submitted papers will be reviewed on a double-blind, peer review basis. Papers must adhere to the Sage Harvard reference style for citations.

All submissions and inquiries should be directed to the attention of:
Dr Dianne Forbes
Please write ‘Elea Twitter in Education Special Issue’ in the subject line of all correspondence.

More about the Journal:
E-Learning and Digital Media is a peer-reviewed international journal directed towards the study and research of e-learning in its diverse aspects: pedagogical, curricular, sociological, economic, philosophical and political. 

This journal explores the ways that different disciplines and alternative approaches can shed light on the study of technically mediated education. Working at the intersection of theoretical psychology, sociology, history, politics and philosophy it poses new questions and offers new answers for research and practice related to digital technologies in education. The change of the title of the journal in 2010 from E-Learningto E-Learning and Digital Media is expressive of this new and emphatically interdisciplinary orientation, and also reflects the fact that technologically-mediated education needs to be located within the political economy and informational ecology of changing mediatic forms.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Student Feedback

With the end of our semester upon us, this is the time when lecturers hope that students are filling in the appraisals for papers and teaching. I have been dropping reminders to students to contribute their suggestions via the anonymous appraisals online.  Within the online papers I have taught this semester, students are also concluding online forums with a wrap up and feedback-focused discussion. This is a time to take stock and ask questions like:
  • What have you learned this semester?
  • What will you do to build upon this learning?
  • Which aspects of our paper helped you to learn?
  • What would you like to see changed in future?
The ‘what should we keep and what should we change’ pairing is the most useful formative tool for course design!

Enabling students to submit their suggestions anonymously is a safeguard for students, it balances the power differential, and is standard procedure. However, anonymity is also prone to abuse as students who have received poor marks retaliate in kind. Often the results of paper appraisals are skewed so that most of the respondents answer affirmatively, with outliers who report they were ‘never’ satisfied with the course. These divergent viewpoints can be interesting and valid, but it is not possible to explore them further when the source is anonymous. When lecturers receive a negative comment, we can’t always ask about the circumstances, reasons or for more details about how to improve. It is even more frustrating when students don’t complete the online appraisals, and response rates are very often low.

To balance these concerns, it is wise to invite student feedback in a range of ways, for example via Moodle forums and exit slips.

Moodle forums – the first year MMP students are currently noting advice that they would give to newbies joining the degree. This will be very useful to pass on to the new class of 2016, and will likely suggest areas where students feel least confident and need most support. Importantly, we have asked the students to use the opportunity to thank a peer who has helped or taught them in some way in their first semester of tertiary study.

In the Communication Technologies and Lifelong Learning option paper students are reflecting on their learning through the POPLN challenge and again suggesting how others might make a start with POPLN if they are entirely new to the notion of learning through social media. Again, these suggestions will assist in refining the orientation and introductory phase of POPLN in future iterations of the course. I am grateful for the student suggestions, and also like to know which readings seem dated, which are most powerful, which tasks are particularly engaging and which discussions have resonated with students. This is not just about ‘what did you like/enjoy?’ although student satisfaction is a factor. Rather, I want to know about the elements of the paper that promoted learning, challenged students to move outside of their comfort zones, revealed new ways of thinking and generated wider exploration. I also want to know how to best support students without rescuing them from the learning potential.

Within all of this of course there are constraints on our work – in terms of Time (always the biggie, hence the capital T), and also regulations and expectations of tertiary study at various levels. Discussing course feedback openly with students is helpful all round as it means students can table their suggestions, and we can be receptive while also questioning to clarify the essence of problems/concerns, negotiating adjustments (I can’t do that but how about this?) and explain transparently if/why certain changes are not possible.

A bonus of the discussion forum as a means of eliciting student feedback is that the students are required to contribute. It would be very difficult to require students to complete an anonymous online appraisal.

Is it fair to require students to give feedback?
Yes, especially in the case of teacher education students for whom provision of constructive and timely feedback is a professional necessity.
I’d like teacher education students to consider when providing feedback to lecturers and courses:
  • How would I feel as a teacher receiving this feedback?
  • What action does my feedback suggest?

Feedback should not be used to punish. When your lecturer marked your assignment, it is highly unlikely that s/he set out to hurt and offend you. Is your feedback given in the spirit of improving teaching and learning?
If you have a concern and would like to see a change implemented, offer specific suggestions about how this might be accomplished. For example, a comment like “This class is boring and the teaching sucks” would be hurtful and wouldn’t suggest how the paper or pedagogy could be enhanced.
On the other hand, a comment like “There are too many readings to keep up with each week and it would be good to have a choice of reading and to focus on those post-2010” could generate some real adjustments and updates.

On campus, a number of colleagues use an exit slip as a means of collecting student feedback after f2f sessions, particularly lectures and workshops. Again, students are asked:
  • What did you learn?
  • (Sometimes, what surprised you?)
  • What are you still wondering about?

The latter generates questions that can be addressed at tutorials and this is a good way of surfacing areas of concern and student interest.

In each of the above cases, the appraisals, discussion forums and exit slips function as a barometer of student thinking and dispositions. These are some of the ways we invite student voice, note student experience and listen to students.

What do we do with the feedback?
  1. Dismiss – if it is insulting, vague, impractical or poorly reasoned.
  2. Implement – if it is clear, specific and practical, as well as pedagogically progressive and supportive of quality learning.
  3. Compromise – if there is some merit to the concern raised or the suggestion, within constraints imposed by institutional directives. 

If you are a student, please complete your appraisals – give your lecturers some direction to inform their teaching and course development.

If you are a tertiary teacher, how do you invite and respond to student feedback?

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Part Three: Visiting some more classrooms

Languages learning

I've been in Spanish and French classes lately too, seeing how the teachers incorporate digital technologies to help students deepen their language learning. One teacher is hugely experienced, and the other has been teaching for less than five years. Both however, are finding ways to use readily available tools to enhance learning, and push their own boundaries. I'd like to share a bit of that with you, by focusing on one part of one Spanish lesson.
      The teacher of Spanish has been using four digital tools in particular : Google Classroom, GoogleDocs, Story Bird and Padlet. The day I observed her however, she was mainly using Google Docs.
      The class had recently been introduced to the preterite (one off actions in the past) and imperfect past tense. Her aim was to get students to use these to tell a past tense story, in groups. To do so, she created a template document sent to each group of 3. This template included images for a comic strip construction. In other words, the page was set up as two-column, six-row table, with an image in three of the six lefthand blocks, so that the story could unfold on the right. Chromebooks were available for each student to accomplish this as part of their group.
      The task therefore required students to wok out together what part of the story they were to focus on, after having worked out a basic story line that would sensibly carry over into each block. Students were also advised to use the resources in the room as well as online, to address vocabulary and image needs. This is what they were using:

So this photograph shows how the document looked. The images were intended to provoke some thinking among each group member and provide scope for each person to contribute to the task. Once students got going and worked out their plan, the rest of the lesson consisted of some concentrated thinking and support.

Adaptive help-seeking

An intriguing aspect of this class was the level of adaptive help-seeking. There were two really clear examples of this, where students relied on each other.
The first occurred right near the start of the lesson, when the Chromebooks were issued. When opening the device to log on, one student exclaimed, "It's in Korean!"The teacher's first response was to say 'grab another one then' but the student and his buddy decided against it, deciding instead to problem solve themselves. They solved the language problem by the girl opening the preferences tab on her device, and, because it was in English, using the cues to help her partner find the parts to change the default language. This was really creative problem-solving and demonstrates how well students can co-operate to change things.
      The second example is when some students complained that they were having trouble adding the appropriate macrons or tildes or accents to words. Another overheard and demonstrated how to use the Special Character function in Docs to solve this problem. This was then viewed by the teacher who, by sharing the strategy, made it easy for everyone to properly accent the words as needed. The image below demonstrates:

This photo shows that by drawing the letter and the macron by hand using the touchpad, the program recognises the letter and makes one available to insert in the word as required.

A third very interesting point about this class is that few had experienced collaborating on GDocs before. so there was learning  about the program, online collaborating, and specific ways of solving problems while completing a shared task.

Not bad for one lesson! Have you struck some similar problem-solving skills?