Time to submit the first assignment :

From Block 1, choose three activities that have helped you to develop your understanding of technology-enhanced learning. Before you choose them, please make sure you have read ‘Important notes’ below and have understood the assessment criteria; if you have queries, please discuss them with your tutor and fellow students in your tutor group forum.

For each activity, explain to your tutor:

  1. what the activity has enabled you to understand in relation to aspects of your own and/or others’ use of technology for learning. Give examples of this use, to illustrate your argument. These examples may come from your personal or family life, and you may interpret ‘learning’ broadly. The examples may also come from your professional life if you teach; you may interpret ‘teach’ broadly to include any aspect of supporting others in their learning. You may also use examples that you have shared in your group or that you have found on the internet.
  2. how you would change your chosen activity – in terms of its use of media and the tasks that you were asked to carry out – to make it more relevant to you (your personal and/or professional situation) and more engaging to you as a learning activity.

To cover points 1 and 2 above for your first activity, write a section of about 500 words. Write another section of about 500 words to cover points 1 and 2 for your second activity. Write another section of about 500 words to cover points 1 and 2 for your third activity. Having written a total of about 1,500 words, write one Discussion section of approximately 800 words on the following question:

  • To what extent do you find the ideas of ‘acquisition’ and ‘participation’ useful in understanding your experience of your three chosen activities? Quote briefly (no more than about 100 words in total across the two authors) from the work of Anna Sfard (Week 3b) and John Seely Brown (Week 2a webcast, and Week 4 paper by Brown and others). Engage critically with their arguments to indicate where you consider these do not account fully for your own experience, or where you would wish to refine their arguments. Refer to other sources that are relevant – either from elsewhere in H800 materials or from sources you have found for yourself. When you are discussing ‘participation’, include brief examples from the forums and/or Elluminate sessions to illustrate how you and fellow students have participated; these examples may come from outside your three chosen activities. You are encouraged to insert one or two images to support your argument – a screenshot from an Elluminate session to show a whiteboard, perhaps, or images from course material or the internet.

Your tutor will use the following criteria to grade your work out of 100, allocating marks in the proportions shown here.

  1. The extent and quality of your contributions to discussion and collective knowledge-building in the tutor group forums during Block 1. Even a simple question, for example, or a straightforward suggestion, can make an extremely effective contribution (20 marks).
  2. Across the first three sections of your essay: your demonstration to your tutor of how the three activities enable you to understand the use of technology for learning in the contexts you have written about (20 marks).
  3. Across the first three sections of your essay: your proposals for creative and convincing alternative designs and tasks for the three activities (10 marks).
  4. For your single Discussion section: your demonstration of your understanding of some of the key ideas in Sfard and Brown as explored in Block 1, your ability to engage with the ideas critically and to apply them to your own experience of the activities, your choice of additional sources, and your use of evidence from forums and/or Elluminate (30 marks).
  5. Your written presentation: clarity of expression; accuracy of grammar and spelling (please use your spell-checker, set to UK English: for example, Tools> Spelling and Grammar> Dictionary language); accurate following of the heading structure set out in ‘How to structure your writing’; use of captioned illustrations, whose significance you explain in your text (10 marks).
  6. Your accurate use of the author/date referencing conventions. This criterion relates to whether you have used the author/date system accurately, not to whether you have made a good selection of resources (10 marks).

The following table provides an indication of the standards associated with Distinction, Pass and Fail marks for each of the six criteria.

Criterion Distinction Pass Fail
1. Online contributions Effective contributions Relevant contributions Insignificant contributions, or none at all
2. Application of three activities Very insightful and convincing connections between activities and your chosen context(s) Reasonably insightful and convincing connections between activities and your chosen context(s) Few or no convincing connections between activities and your chosen context(s); and/or few or no examples
3. Proposals about the three activities Very creative and convincing proposals linked to your context(s) Reasonably creative and convincing proposals linked to your context(s) Few or no creative and convincing proposals; and/or no links to context(s)
4. Discussion Excellent understanding of, and critical engagement with, key ideas; excellent application of these ideas to your own experience of the activities. Highly relevant other sources, and excellent use of examples to explore ‘participation’ Good understanding of key ideas; good application of these ideas to your own experience of the activities. Relevant other sources, and good use of examples about ‘participation’ Poor or no understanding of key ideas, and/or little or no application of these ideas to your own experience of the activities. Irrelevant other sources, or none; weak or no use of examples about ‘participation’
5. Written presentation Clear writing; accurate grammar and spelling; accurate following of the heading structure set out in ‘How to structure your writing’; one or two highly relevant images, captioned and referred to in the text Fairly clear writing; mostly accurate grammar and spelling; accurate following of the heading structure set out in ‘How to structure your writing’; moderately relevant images (or no images), not captioned and not referred to in the text Writing that is hard to understand; a significant number of errors of grammar and spelling; and/or not following the heading structure set out in ‘How to structure your writing’; irrelevant images (or no images), not captioned and not referred to in the text
6. Author/date referencing system Accurate following of the specified referencing conventions Partial following of the specified referencing conventions Largely or wholly inaccurate use of the specified referencing conventions; and/or using a different system

Here is a lighthearted and inappropriate response :

My Maverick Musings on Metaphors or Methods.

Before this course, if you had asked why I use some methods in class, or some media in class, I would have said the choices were based largely on 16 years of experience together with feedback and training. I would add that, for the content I was asked to teach, with the resources made available, I have tried to achieve 2 things –  prepare the student for the future as best as possible and help them get the best grade possible; I have always had goals in mind.

It seems now I’m being told that in fact, I’ve been doing these things because of some metaphors I have about learning. It’s simply not the case. For example, my students have to read and understand a text, a speech, a video, etc. However, this can be done alone so I pre-teach any words and concepts they might not know and then set the exercise for homework, and the follow-on tasks, usually interactive between the teacher and pairs of students, and then in groups, are done in the next lesson. There might be a further written activity, so again, if the students have the time, this can be done as homework. This is what I think is the best use of the time to achieve the goals. It has never been based on any metaphors; it is based on finding out what works and what doesn’t and getting advice from others about why and how. No metaphors required ? It seems like common sense to me.

Of course, I can analyse my own learning by using ideas about situated cognition; I have learned how to do it by doing it in changing contexts and making sense of these experiences. I have learned by seeing others do it and by the feedback I’ve heard them receive; peripheral participation. I can say my experience has been acquired through knowledge transfer or advice (the acquisition metaphor) and contextualised interaction in class (participation metaphor).

But do I need to be able to analyse it in these terms to be able to exploit technology to improve my teaching and thus my students’ learning ? Perhaps it might be better to analyse it in terms of whether or how well it achieved the goals. I rather feel the metaphors are for academics who like to spend their time lost in thought about how they’re thinking. Rudyard Kipling wrote in his famous poem, If, “if you can think and not make thoughts your aim”. You can see that I’m resisting the enculturation process. J

I would like to become a successful “practitioner” in exploiting technology to teach. I can see how the metaphors will enable me to understand how to choose among the technologies so I can exploit them. However, I would change the focus away from academic metaphors and instead look at ideas about the goals of learning and how technology and pedagogic methods can achieve these goals. I would mix the metaphors (pun intended) in at appropriate points.

I wonder, are these musings suitable for a TMA ? It’s about 700 words. Do I need to add pictures and references to be understood or is the reward for this simply another enculturation ?  I don’t think it is suitable because it doesn’t fit the culture and would be labeled as a fail because of it. Perhaps I’m verging on stage III of activity theory and the contradiction between what I’m being asked to learn and what I’m doing are causing a conflict that will, oh, what was it … dah, can’t remember. J

I have a more serious criticism. Every teacher knows that students need support and guidance. I would expect that the OU would understand this and allocate time to the tutors specifically to support the students with their first TMA, even more so as many people doing distance learning are working and may not have any recent experience with writing something academic. There are bound to be basic errors that could easily be removed if there was the opportunity to submit a first draft for comments. This would achieve one of my teaching goals – help the student get the best grade possible – because it is one of the student’s primary goals.

Will I get feedback on this ? If not, then I consider it an incomplete learning activity, and this activity must be changed to achieve this most basic of goals. No metaphor required.