21/2/2013

[Open] It begins

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:42 am

(I’ll use the [Open] tag, as well as creating a new category, to set off the Open Education stuff from everything else)

So, about 10 students and one interested bystander (waves @ Crank) have signed up for the open discussion forum. No posts yet – except the spam I’m still smiting each morning – but once classes start next week it should be all go.

First 4 or so PowerPoints should go up today as well. I’ll announce here what I’ll announce in the courses: the PowerPoints exist for a number of purposes, including sharing and availability for those who can’t make it to the lecture, but I don’t think lecturing from PowerPoint is a particularly compelling pedagogical strategy, so I may well teach the content in the lecture differently.

19/2/2013

Open Education – It’s Here, Now!

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:34 am

Here’s an announcement I just posted (with slight tweaks) on the web sites for both of my courses:

I’m trying an experiment this semester. It’s 100% your decision whether you participate or not. There’s no cost, and it’s irrelevant to your grade in the course*, and I won’t be using it to write any research papers or anything. I just think it’s kind of a cool idea.
The experiment is to conduct this course in a more ‘open’ way. That includes a few things.

  1. I will post all the PowerPoint slides I use in my account on Slideshare, so that they’re available to the world. I’ll also post them – and the lecture recordings – here on the course site so that you have direct access.
  2. I will post about what I’m teaching on my blog at http://www.bravus.com/blog/ I’ve been blogging for about 8 years and there are something like 1800 posts there, including quite a few about educational issues, and I’ll just post about what I’m teaching during this semester.
  3. I have created a discussion forum at http://www.bravus.com/tribes/ which I have just called ‘Open Forum’. It will be available for people in this course, 7032 – Middle Years Science Curriculum (which is a pretty terrible title, btw) – and in the other course I am teaching this semester, 7801EDN – Teaching and Learning in the Middle Years. One of the cool things about it is that, unlike Discussion Boards within course sites, it won’t go away at the end of the semester, it will always be available. I’ll use it in the courses I teach next semester, too (7033 and 7035EDN, Senior Science 1 and 2). I’ve been on one online forum for 10 years, and it has enriched my life enormously. I’ll also be inviting some of my colleagues and former students and other interested educators to join the community and comment on the discussion, so it should be a great way to join the profession.
  4. I will post Announcements here when I post interesting readings and new discussions in the Open Forum: these are not compulsory in any way, just things I think are interesting. You are also very welcome to share anything you find interesting, and if a good discussion gets going I’ll announce it here too.

If you choose to participate, just register on the Open Forum and go for it! If you prefer not to, don’t! It shouldn’t impact you at all – just study the course in the regular way. You’ll see some Announcements, but I’ll tag them with [Open] and you can feel free to ignore them

* Except, perhaps, in the sense that if you discuss the ideas in the course you will develop a better understanding of them.

So, among other things, this constitutes part of that invitation to my friends to join the Open Forum. Click, register, post!

17/2/2013

Spam

Filed under: — Bravus @ 11:12 am

So, I built a forum on the 6th of this month, as described in this post. Now, 11 days later, there are 1107 spam posts in one forum and 696 in another.

Off to spend a few minutes fixing the filters.

6/2/2013

An Open (Science Teaching) Forum

Filed under: — Bravus @ 11:53 am

I was struck by an idea while riding in this morning1. I was thinking about MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses – clickety for more info). Suzie has just joined one from Berkeley, an introduction to statistics, and I’m doing some writing about connectivism, the underlying theory.

At the same time, I’m working on setting up the web sites for two courses I’ll be teaching this semester, which will be on ‘Learning@Griffith’, the closed, Blackboard-based system we use here.

I can understand the need for a closed system: it protects students’ online safety, allows us to do some stuff with copyrighted materials that wouldn’t be allowed in an open site (and one of the other things that informed my thinking was a comment from Connie Varnhagen about IP being one of the differences between running a closed course and running a MOOC) and, if forum postings are being used for assessment, it helps make sure it’s the student who does the assessed work.

At the same time, there are many, many benefits to having an open forum. Among other things, I have a heap of my former students who are out there teaching and who would be able to answer questions and offer perspectives. I also have a heap of cool and interesting friends, sciencey and otherwise, who might (a) be interested to see what we’re discussing and (b) would be able to offer interesting insights and perspectives.

I’ve already said I’ll be posting some of the info from the science education course in Semester One on my blog, and the new idea this morning was to create an open forum. It will be about science teaching, and will be available for my students but open to the world. I’ll announce the URL here when I build it, and probably pester you incessantly to post there!

Edit: And here it is: http://www.bravus.com/tribes/

One advantage of an open forum that I ‘own’ on my own server space is that it’s persistent: forums in course web sites die when the courses finish, after one semester, whereas the forums that have influenced me have been part of my life for up to 10 years. In particular, as discussed below, some of my students will move from one course to another with me, and it’d be great to have the forum come with them. And, of course, former students from past years are an awesome resource for current teacher education students. An open forum now allows me to draw in former students I keep in touch with, and allows this year’s students to be a resource for next year’s, and so on: this is a project for the long haul.

(that’s the end of the main blog post: the description of the idea, its antecedents and implications. The following is detail stuff that I’m writing as much to work out for myself as anything else…)

In Semester One, which starts in a couple of weeks, I’m teaching two courses (a third got cancelled), one on science education for middle years (usually defined as Grades 6-9) teachers and one on general pedagogical stuff for teachers of the same age group. Since the forum will be focused on science teaching, it will be more relevant to the former group, but one of the joys of openness is that it will be available for students in the other group. And there may even be some overlap between the two classes anyway.

In Semester Two, which starts in July, I’m teaching three courses. One is for primary school science teachers (to be) and the other two are for teachers of senior secondary school science (Grades 11-12 or 10-12). So all the courses are science education focused, and many of the students in the senior science courses will have done the middle years science course in Semester One, which is cool because they’ll (hopefully) already have climbed the learning curve and be able to get the most out of it.

I’ve used forums in the past, on the ‘if you build it, they will come’ principle, and they didn’t – well, not in great numbers. But I think in some ways that won’t matter: people will use the resources they find useful. I know that different people have different modes, and forums aren’t for everyone. I also know that typically 90% lurk (read only) and 10% post, so relatively small numbers of posters don’t mean the forum is ineffective.

The Semester Two primary science education course does include on assessment task that is forum-discussion based, and for that I will use the the Discussion Forum that is built in to the Learning@Griffith site for that course, for all the reasons discussed above about making discussions ‘safe’ when assessment is involved. I hope, though, that being familiar with the open forum will make the assessment easier for students, although I do worry about whether having two fora might be confusing for them… I guess we’ll see.

Over all, I think it’s an innovation with the potential to make my teaching more effective. I guess we’ll see.

  1. On the motorbike: I rode the bicycle the past two days, but when I ride that all my energy goes into breathing and there’s little time to think!

14/1/2013

Open Teaching, Right Here, Right… … In About A Month

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:32 am

I’m inspired by this post from P Z Myers, in which he talks about posting his lecture materials on his blog:

One thing I’m considering doing differently…I might post summaries of lectures and discussion topics here, if time allows. Public exposure of all the stuff that usually goes on behind the doors of the classroom? I don’t know if the world is ready for that.

http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/01/13/did-you-have-to-remind-me/

I don’t start teaching for another couple of weeks, but I think I might share the experiment. I’m teaching two (or three, depending on numbers) classes this semester, but will just do it for one of them. It’s called ‘Teaching and Learning in the Middle Years’, and focuses on helping beginning teachers understand some theories and practices around education for adolescents (the ‘middle years’ tend to be about Grades 6-9, though I have seen it defined as widely as 4-10). I think an audience of smart non-specialists (and some specialists) might quite enjoy a window on the classroom.

Basically, I’ll link to the PowerPoint slideshows I use, probably on Slideshare, and talk a little bit in a post after each week’s ‘lecture’ about what we did apart from what you can gather from the slides.

I might also post a bit about what activities I plan for the tutorials, and how those go.

Just an experiment in openness, that I hope people will find interesting – and in turn, that will enable me to get feedback, questions and challenges that will help to improve my teaching.