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Posts Tagged ‘Core Activitiy’

H808 Core Activity 2-5: Criteria for reflective writing

In some courses, notably in nursing, teaching and other humanities learning, students are requested, encouraged or made to create and/or provide pieces of reflexive writing about their learning process. Starting such a task is not necessarily easy for everyone and writing about personal things, to look inside our personal thoughts, may seem to be for gifted students only. Nevertheless, I personally think that reflexive practice and reflexive writing about our learning is something that we can learn by practising. Here are some pieces of advice from a reflexive learner, me, reflexively writing about reflexive practice in learning.

Start small or K.I.S.S.

First of all, years ago, when I had to start a journal about my learning as a trainer teacher, I decided to start without too many expectations, and privileged regularity over quantity and quality. What was important was to start the process and write on a regular basis. To be focussed on the task more than on technology, Keep It Simple and Stupid (Kiss) and begin with what you are most happy with: pen and paper, emails to yourself, blog, e-porfolio, whatever suits you the best.

With time, you will discover that taking notes and posting them in an electronic form gives more freedom in the organisation of your work and the reuse of your editing.

From the surface to the depth

Writing directly about profound and personal thoughts on such an intimate subject as our transformation through learning is not easy, but this comes in time. Begin to write about facts to help your brain to focus on what happened, on what you learned or what you read, watched or listened to. Let your thoughts and feelings come up without any judgement. Think less and less about generalities and focus step by step on more specific points about the learning. These points should evoke agreement or disagreement, good or bad feelings, new ideas or bring back old personal experiences. Write all you get. Later, or in another post, you may go over and process your material to deepen or edit it. With time, this exercise will become more and more familiar and the path to your thoughts and deep memory will become brighter and quicker.

From privacy to publicity

It is important that this task must remain something you are confident about and trust in. Begin by writing your reflection for yourself and open them up to others with time. Opening your reflexive material, or a part of it, to others gives you the benefit of their comments on your work and the reciprocity to their own intimacy. This sharing can be made only with peers of the same cohort within a wider community. Making part of your thoughts obvious to the world gives you a way to be recognised for who you are. Whichever way, never lose the control of your image. When it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.

Writing towards objectives

The question of having a living reflexive journal in whatever form it can take, is of course driven by targets. Even if we know, through literature, that reflexive activities give students wider ownership of their learning and foster a deeper learning approach with tangible results in higher marks and better learning, these activities are time consuming. Moreover if such tasks are compulsory and have to be assessed, the style, grammar and structure will have to be reviewed.

As a personal learning tool, a reflexive journal is something that has to be tried for a minimum basis of one course before you can discover its advantages, so persevere, or follow a syllabus where you will be forced to do it, if you need, as I did, such a ‘driver’.

H808 Core Activity 2-3: Case studies

After the reading of the different suggested documents, I have chosen to focus on the second case study from the Becta’s Impact study of e-portfolios on learning (2007), called Early e-portfolio activity across a local authority – West Berkshire Council.

West Berkshire Council is a local authority where a diverse range of learners (teachers and students) are encouraged to collaborate and cross many types of boundaries.

What were the anticipated outcomes of using an e-portfolio?

Some teachers believed that using e-portfolios will help students to identify their needs and express themselves however they want. Other outcomes were also targets such as being able to follow students across the board from primary all the way through. From the beginning it was clear that the institution wanted e-portfolios to encompass every bit of the students’ learning.

What were the limitations to its implementation?

Because Schools in West Berkshire do not have policies regarding e-portfolios, each has taken different approaches to implementation. This has certainly limited the adoption rate by the lack of good practice, moreover, the project started with the children only, and in certain cases only with gifted students, without teachers showing the path. The result was that at the time of the survey, no school has achieved complete implementation of e-portfolio use.

The tool was primarily used as a show case e-portfolio allowing parents to watch the work of their children; for communication and feedback between students, teachers and experts.

A strong policy fostering standardisation and extensive use of e-portfolios would maybe have helped the development and a quicker adoption rate through the different schools. The lack of harmonisation will certainly create problems of interoperability and data exchange between the different schools.

According to the survey it seems that the curriculum has not been adapted to e-portfolio use and support which would have created a better engagement with e-portfolios from the students (some surveyed students claim they don’t know what an e-portfolio is, even after having used the tool).

How is the e-portfolio supposed to help the user to identify and manage their learning?

Teachers report they have changed their practice through using ICT resources, which doesn’t imply they have changed their practice against e-portfolio and student-centred pedagogy. One school’s Head teacher claims that now ‘people see the reason behind things, they are introduced reflectively. We are good at reflecting and evaluating, creating a learning culture’.

In this case, there are not many contributions from students and comments are generally made by adults. They believe that such a tool permits students to ‘access [the learning platform] at any time and […] work on things in the way they want to , rather than just what the teacher is telling them to do’.

Surveys in that case study suggest that teachers were confident enough with the ICT facilities and had allowed students to take a lead in learning.

In primary classes, pupils’ parents have the possibility to connect on the system together with their children and be involved in their apprenticeship. This symbiotic relation of school-pupil-parent seems to be a good thing according to all the stakeholders.

H808 Core Activity 2-2: Reflection

This activity was twofold: finding information about the ‘drivers’ behind use and development of e-portfolios in UK, Europe and other countries; working in groups to divide the workload and complete together the table proposed as template in the course’s wiki.

Being behind for technical reasons (lack of Internet connection since the beginning of the course after my return to Switzerland) I am trying to catch up but also I am working on the different activities after the other students, who are further ahead and have deserted the place.

After an attentive reading of the different forum posts and a comparison of the already completed jobs in the wiki with the content of all the bibliographies I read, I decided to complete the table with other countries not covered by my peers.

From experience and from having participated in different conferences (e.g. MoodleMoot, Mahara) I know that Austria already has a strong implementation of e-portfolios in education. I then began to search for information about the ‘drivers’ that underpin the adoption of such a tool and methodology. I also wanted to compare this development in Austria with other Germanic and culturally related countries (i.e Germany and Switzerland).

Where Google and Bing were very useful for finding information about Austria, search engines were not useful for gathering information about countries, such as Switzerland and Germany, which lag behind with e-porfolio adoption.

First observation: it is easy to find information whenever the subject has been highly developed and is fully published on by many authors, but finding details on the lack of something with Google is more difficult. The quality and pertinence of the search string is then more important. The subject has then to be approached laterally and not frontally: it is not productive to search with, for example, ‘e-portfolio drivers switzerland’ but instead it is better to find other related keywords that may find relevant side articles about different pedagogy experiences, linking, perhaps, to  e-portfolio use.

Second observation: where the lamba user will just stop after having searched (and found little information for Switzerland and Germany) the e-learning professional can provide more by using their alternative sources of information: their social network on Twitter, LinkedIn, Plaxo; their personal contacts encompassing other experts; forums and specialised web sites where he/she knows specific information can be found.

After having contacted two people in Germany and Switzerland, whom I consider as experts on e-porfolios, and having browsed on different academic and institutional web sites from my Delicious bookmarking system, I had sufficient information to complete the wiki with relevant information about Switzerland and Germany.

This shows the importance, for an e-learning professional, to not only develop their skills and knowledge but also to cultivate their networks and relations with peers and other specialist, locally and globally, and to manage all such gathered information in an efficient system for finding, managing, and sharing information quickly, such as Diigo or Delicious.