Never give up! You can do it!


This post is dedicated to all the lecturers who come to my professional development sessions and workshops:

  • who feel like giving up because they think they are never going to get how to do it
  • who place me on a pedestal as being some one knows all about technology and does not struggle with using technology

To remind them that:

  • Using technology is a learning journey that takes time (don’t be hard on yourselves we are all learners)
  • The more you practise skills you learn in PD outside of workshop sessions, the better you will get.
  • Make your goal to go away from a PD session and actually practise the skills you were shown. BUT BE PATIENT, but don’t give up. If you do get stuck try working out the solution for yourself; but don’t stress if you can’t (even I get stuck). (Hint write notes of what you have tried to do and where you have got stuck so I can help you)
  • Nothing you struggle with, or do, I will I ever perceive as them being dumb – guaranteed I have made the same mistake myself.

So the following is information to make them laugh, realise that we all need help from our friends, and if I can do it, they can do it.

Here is the story of me, Sue Waters, and some of my most famous bloopers in my technology journey!

I frequently get people wondering and asking me questions of why I have a skype callout that has the words “System 32” in it. While I will not say what my original message about System 32 was I will say is I use this message as a reminder to me. To remember that while I can do a lot on a computer I really am just a beginner; every now and then I get reminded of this fact. My friend (a programmer) always says the problem with me is that I think I know more than I do which is why I stuff things up. It is always good to have friends to humble you. (PS that friend, who is retired, no he is not old just did very well working as programmer, recently asked me when he was drink if I would give him lessons on Web 2.0 technology 🙂 )

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I am one of those people that is totally self taught and can do more than most but will come unstuck with the simple things. Like the time, many years ago, when my computer would not start properly. So I rang my IT friend at work. He navigated me to the section so I could check my memory and then asked me to read out the numbers. So I said it says “OK, OK, OK.” He said what! Read it again but this time with the words as well so I said that free memory space says OK…..He laughs loudly “No Sue that mean zero K’s, zero K’s, zero K’s which is definitely not okay it means that you are f….d and there is no memory left”.numberlock1.jpg

Then there was the time I bought a new computer and could not work out why the number pad did not work……the guy who built had a great time laughing about the fact I did not know to put on the number lock.

And finally getting back to system 32. Towards the end of last year I bought myself a new computer. It kept crashing Internet Explorer every time I tried to run WebCT 6.0. Finally after weeks we decided that maybe there was a virus on my computer causing problems. So I removed the cheap virus software that the computer shop told me was brilliant and installed Norton’s. Straight away it picked up that I had several trojan on my computer. However I could not get rid of them using Norton’s, spybot or Win Defender. So I ended up with Norton’s popping up every ten minutes saying it had deleted this Trojan. When I discussed it with my friend and we did all the things that I had to do to remove it and it was not working I told my friend that the easiest thing to do to remove it was to remove that bloody System 32 where it resides. He burst out laughing and told me that System 32 is my Windows operating system – which is not a good idea. Humbled yet again!f1.jpg

Final reason for putting System 32 in my Skype callout; I hate being called a geek, techno-freak or nerd (as I am not). And those that think I am a will start arguing with me saying I must be as I know what System 32 is. Please note to all that know me, and those that I network with, I adamantly denied being a techno-freak, nerd or geek. Although my skills level absolutely freaks out one of my techno-freak friends.

Reflective learnings and why it is important when doing professional development on e-learning for staff

At the project planning days last week for the Learnscope e-learning and WADET mobile technology Becky Sauders highlighted the importance of delivering effective PD to increase sustainable m-learning & e-learning uptake by uptaking. She especially touched on the importance of reflective learning; so this week I decided to try it with my workshop. There is so much for me to learn about reflective learning and how to use it effectively so it was a case of Becky giving me some guidance on how to do it and me giving it a go (and accepting it is part of my learning journey).visage.jpg

So we started the workshop with a Snowball Activity. Each participant was asked to write a question(s) on a piece of paper relating to the first workshop on:

  1. Anything you felt confused about
  2. Needed clarifyied
  3. Wanted more information on
  4. Can not see the relevance of how it connects to what you want to achieve

All questions were gathered together and participants were encouraged to answer the questions.

I was really impressed by the questions they asked and the solutions that were offered as a result of doing this activity.

This reflective learning activity highlighted to participants and me that they wanted more:

  1. “hands on” time to explore and use the PDAs
  2. Information on databases and why a database is needed for a PDA
  3. Ability to put files onto PDAs and to make the most of the visual aspects of the PDAs
  4. On “How to” transfer files from computer to PDA and from PDA to computer
  5. Information “How come what you want to have on the PDA, as a database, involves so much time and thought?”
  6. Time to clarify/decide on the design aspects of the database
  7. Paper based documents on how to sync PDA with computer – so I can remember how to do this
  8. Information about how to use wikis (I want to learn how to set up a website similar to what we are using so I can use for my students)

Their solutions to their questions were:

  1. Insufficient time allocated to fully gain skills required so group decided that they need to organise additional PD funded by their section – decided they want to meet once a week on a Thursday afternoon to gain more skills in PDAs, wikis etc (booked a PD session for Thursday 10 May, 3-5 pm)
  2. Also some participants highlighted the fact that they benefit more by one-on-one tuitions so need to investigate the possibility of a “help desk” type scenario
  3. “How to” documentation has already been organised – Frances in the process of creating – will be online and PDF format to download
  4. May need to make next workshop full day rather than half day to address issues with learning how to use the database and realise why it is needed. Also will apply for further funding.

For both myself and the participants this was extremely beneficial and their needs would not have been identified without it.

I have also organised for them to keep a reflective journal for the project.

An interesting comment that one of the participants made was that as lecturers most of us use reflective practise in our work. I have to say I agree with her but the whole process of formalising reflective learning makes you think more deeply about your thoughts and then makes you take action on those thoughts.

However on reflection, important to tell other facilitators who are involved in the project, and who did not attend what you are doing. Since I use a wiki for the project, and I put all the information about the workshop and its outcomes as soon as I have completed the workshop, and they have the wiki set up to notify them when changes are made they did not necessarily understand what I was doing, and the points raised by the participants. Oh well, all good, just part of my own personal learning journey.

The “Ripple Effect”

I was invited to do a presentation for both the m-learning (funded by WADET) and e-learning (WA Learnscope) planning days with the aim of sharing my experiences and knowledge with other project teams.

Ann asked me to do my presentation today on “Managing your World online”; she hoped that if participants picked up just one tip from how I manage my world online this would be great. So I decided to borrow from Sean O’Driscoll’s insight into comparing effective tag drafting to following in the slip stream of a faster bike rider or car when you are racing. However I expanded beyond his del.icio.us model – my suggestion to them was to find people that are good at what they are doing and follow behind (their online tracks) in their slip stream; by doing this you gain from their knowledge and expend less energy (they do the searching and researching; they do the bookmarking; they provide you with the “how to” guide; and the noise created from lots of experience e-learning people’s blogs tells you if something is worth checking out). I encouraged them all to feel free to follow in mine and others slipstream to increase their knowledge and skills.

The other model that I did not have time to discuss is the “Ripple effect” and how following in other people’s slip stream has an outward rippling effect that spreads. That tips a person picks up from you, ripple onto others. For example my girlfriend Sue who has been engaged by podcasting (and went out an bought as ipod as a result), wikis, blogs and flickr as a result of networking with me and who has passed these skills onto her parents. Or Frances, my IT guru, who has now set up a blog and a wiki then tried out Toon Doo and whose daughter went to bed way too late because she was having too much fun creating her own comic using Toon Doo.

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The good news for Ann is for at least one participant at the workshop today this strategy of giving them food for thought on how I manage my online world has worked. Philip Nichols, who himself is excellent, has gone home today – set up his Google Homepage, Google Reader and checked out how we are doing things at Challenger TAFE compared to his TAFE. I look forward to Philip’s feedback on what he likes and doesn’t like. Plus from his site I found some more software I need to check out. Thanks Philip.

I would also like to thank Stephan Ridgway, Coordinator for Learning and Innovation at TAFE NSW, Sydney Institute (the other side of Australia) for being nice enough to participate in my presentation by letting me ring and talk to him using Skype. Thanks Stephan for all the great advice you gave the project managers on how to make their Learnscope projects succeed. And yet again I owe you.

Final chuckle for the day. Philip was nice enough to point out to me at the end of my presentation that in bike riding the person at the front often gets knocked over or losses. My comment – more than happy for those that follow behind me to overtake, and I encourage everyone to actively participate in social networking as it increases knowledge gain and reduces energy expenditure. Remember I am following behind in the slipstream of others!

Use of peer coaching in e-learning professional development

Yesterday was m-learning, today was Learnscope e-learning Project Planning day.

Thank goodness for the Internet access on my PDA that meant I could multi-task i.e. listen to the presentations and participate in the activities while I researched more about the use of peer coaching (all Becky Saunders fault however that was the desired outcome). I suppose at this point in time it is interesting to reflect that my technology life style has made me very proficient at multitasking.

Carole McCulloch (who is an e-learning coach and mentor) from the other side of Australia, was nice enough to provide her feedback on the use of peer coaching in e-learning professional development. Here is what Coach Carole told me about how they do professional Development in Victoria:

“Victorian teams use a peer coaching/mentoring model. Eleaders are provided with a time allowance to provide support for teachers in their departments in understanding, mastering and implementing elearning strategies. They usually have at least one LearnScope or Elearning project to lead during the year and they provide coaching for their teams as well as project management. The success of this coaching/mentoring framework lies in the close collaboration between coaches and peers and their on-the-ground support on an ongoing basis.

In our VIC model the coaches are knowledgeable in elearning and coach their peers in their own goals – usually prescribed by their project outcomes – ones they’ve written themselves. Coaching may be side-by-side or virtual and would consist of pre-arranged events to enhance the learning of the peer. e.g. a coach may provide guidance and feedback on the learning taking place for a set number of peers and may provide more personal mentoring for a smaller number”.

Carole was also nice enough to give me the link to her Victorian E-Learning leaders wiki which she is currently setting up and her new blog. Thanks Carole I look forward to watching and learning from the techniques you use in your State; and plan to have a closer look at both sites tomorrow.Becky Saunders also repeated her great presentation from yesterday so I grabbed the opportunity to record and podcast it from my podcast site (Sorry have not included the full presentation because it was too long but did include the most important aspects of it). She was also nice enough to add the Rogers’ Innovation Adoption Curve into her presentation. I had read about Rogers Innovativeness Theory in Networks, Connections and Community: Learning with Social Software prepared by Val Evans in collaboration with Larraine J Larri with input from Susan Stolz for the Australian Flexible Learning Framework. Thanks Val, Larraine and Susan for writing such a fantastic document; it contains lots of great information.

The reason why I wanted Becky to add Rogers Innovativeness Theory was because I felt it helped people understand that ” trying to quickly convince the mass of a new controversial idea is useless. It makes more sense to start with convincing innovators and early adopters”.

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Delivering effective PD to increase SUSTAINABLE m-learning & e-learning uptake by staff

My brain definitely feels overloaded today – give me technology any day!

Today was the Project Planning Day for all teams that were approved funding from WADET for Embedding m-learning projects. The funds are to be used for professional development to enable teams to gain the skills to embed the technology with their students. Ann Odgers (WA Learnscope Manager) organized an excellent day of activities, to give us food for thought as we commence the planning stage of our projects.

All the presenters were excellent but Becky Saunders (Teaching and Learningbecky.jpg Directorate, WADET) presentation on Embedding PD gave me the most to think about because this year I will be working part time facilitating staff PD on e-learning and m-learning. Effective PD to ensure sustainable uptake of these technology by staff is an issue faced everywhere. Her presentation highlighted the fact that there are so many aspects involved in providing effective PD to staff; and while I have reasonable technology and facilitation skills I have a lot more to learn about making the PD effective to ensure sustainable uptake by staff.

Interesting facts that Becky covered included:

  1. Professional development is about change management. A small change to be implemented in an organisation can take 3 – 5 years; a big change 5-10 years (e.g. reflect on the fact that there are still pockets within our organizations resistant to AQTF)
  2. Impact of peer coaching on uptake of skill in the classroom (Joyce and Showers, 2002)

Joyce and Showers (2002) studied four types of professional development to determine the effectiveness of each on concept understanding, skill attainment, and then the teacher actually applying what was learnt in the PD in applications in the classroom. The results of their study are summarised in this table:
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In simple terms traditional PD that involves a presentation of theory will only increase in the classroom by 5-10%. PD that involves practising (titled in the table Practise and Low Risk Feedback) what they have learnt will increase uptake by 10-15%. If peer coaching is added to the practising uptake in the classrooms will be 80-90%.

Research has shown that workshops don’t provide sufficient time, activities, or content necessary to promote meaningful change. Joyce and Showers found that when teachers combined participating in typical workshops with peer coaching for sharing and observation, 88 % of teachers were using new strategies in their classrooms effectively. Studies have shown that that peer coaching and study groups which provide opportunities for on doing discussion and reflection “may have more influence on changing teaching practices” than other professional development strategies.

Great information Becky, however I now need to do a bit of research, because their use of the term peer coaching is confusing me. I have done a few workshops on coaching and mentoring; at this point in time I am a bit confused by “peer coaching” to me it implies more “peer mentoring” rather than the traditional model of coaching. At least I know that I am not alone in the confusion of mentoring and coaching. I will definitely need to learn a lot more about both mentoring and coaching if I hope to increase the sustainable uptake of m-learning and e-learning.

I strongly recommend you also listen to Becky’s “Technology and use with students

SWAN TAFE PD day

I am part of the Fresh Thinking Program 2006/07 which is funded by the WA Department of Education and Training. Each year a few lecturers from each of the different TAFEWA colleges are selected for the program, to run workshops, on request from other Colleges, on their area of specialty, and the Department covers the cost of the workshops. I was selected to be part of this program as a result of my m-learning work in 2006.

Today was my first workshop commitment as part of this program and I had to present two 1hr 20 min workshops on “E-learning’s evolution into m-learning” at two of SWAN TAFE campuses (Midland and Thornlie). Participants were from a wide range of industry areas (e.g. building and construction, horticulture, aviation) and had differing levels of exposure to e-learning. However most do not use e-learning with their students and were interested to learn more about e-learning. Bit of a problem as the workshop’s focus is meant to be on m-learning.

All was good though, because my presentation started by first looking at how technology has changed dramatically since 1991 and how this has resulted in the evolution of e-learning. As I worked through some of the key dates, in terms of e-learning, in the evolution of the World Wide Web (e.g. World Wide Web; WebCT; Elluminate; Wikipedia; blogs; wikis; Youtube) I was able highlight different types of e-learning that they could use with their students. I then moved onto m-learning and they each got to use a PDA (to see how they work and to check out some of the student resources); try out the spyglasses and some checked out the video ipod. End result I certainly had a good time and I hope they all did as well.

Probably for many of participants the major issue is time; most lecturers, especially those in trade areas, are struggling to keep up with training demands. Western Australia currently has an unemployment rate of 2.7 % (which is the lowest in Australia). So while e-learning can assist their programs they do not necessary have the time to learn the skills to use it effectively.

My suggestion to lecturers new to e- or m-learning is to focus on learning one main skill so they do not feel overwhelmed. There are some many possible starting points – probably the best idea is to first think about what you are trying to achieve and then consider the possible e- or m-learning solutions. For example with remote students, loss of face-to-face student interaction is an issue, and Elluminate (using web conferencing technology) is an excellent e-learning solution for enhancing the program and it is very easy to use (TAFEWA has the licence for Elluminate which means all TAFEWA lecturers have access to it).

This has been a very hard post to write. Not because it was hard to think of what to write but because tonight my girlfriend came to visit. She convinced my husband that he has to set up his own blog (I would not exactly say he is into technology – for example – insists always on spending days reading instruction manuals and then still have to ask me for help) and then proceeded to help him set it up (they have been sitting next to me all night chatting – very hard to concentrate). If you would like to check out his progress with technology, marriage to an Internet addict and kids who are almost as addicted as their mother you can find his blog at The Blog of a Technology Widower. Please, I beg you, do not subscribe to his blog or post comments, the family has too many people into the Internet (and I do not want to share my computer!).

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