Friday, September 26, 2014

POTCert Week 4: The Online Syllabus

This week's material was a great reminder of why I chose the name of my blog. We learn not only from what is new but from revisiting what we think we already know, from what we don't like or don't agree with sometimes even more than from what we like and agree with, we learn observing others, how and why they react to different things and how they learn.

Following are some of the main points that I liked and some that I would change

From Ko and Rossen, chapter 5:

I found it difficult to read this chapter, but revisiting parts of it separately during the last few days helped, and I am not sure if the ebook reader is to blame for how this chapter looks like.
I expected a template that shows the outline of the syllabus highlighting the main sections, each followed by a list of possible components, may be, tagged "must have", "recommended", "nice to have" and "additional". After all the book is meant for teachers new to online teaching, and in any case templates are useful whatever the level of experience. Here's an analogy: if I'm planning a big family dinner and I want to make healthy decisions, I may consult Five Good Groups or Food Groups, but what dishes I decide and how they're presented will depend on many things, but mainly my style, my guests and what I know about them, such as preferences and health, the weather, the availability of ingredients etc. How about we create one together by the end of the course?

I liked the metaphor of Contract, Map, Schedule and I think combined with the subsequent checklist they can be used to start a template.

The two syllabus examples: I would have liked to see the main differences highlighted. Also as a learner I would find it very difficult to locate the information I am looking for in the syllabus the way it is presented in the book (still blaming the ebook reader). I tried here to make the information a bit more visible.

From Rachelle and Pilar's videos:

  • Visuals and graphs to make information easier to find and to create interest
  • Adding useful information within each week that saves students extra clicks to find it outside.
  • Adding hyperlinks
  • On Pilar's course page I notice "Meet Pilar". I like the friendly tone it sets, instead of "meet your instructor"
  • Rachelle's student schedule was sectioned with a colored border that made it easy to see the different weeks.
  • I don't like to scroll up and down trying to find the information I need, instead I prefer to have an index or "content list" hyperlinked to the different sections of the document.
  • When it comes to organizing a week's activities with due dates and points, I prefer a table format as it makes it easier to see information.
Due Dates

HTML : I've learned html at least a couple of times before, but like any language, it needs practice. I am enjoying relearning it and finding immediate use for it (see the video).

Twitter: I've been using twitter on and off for a few years. It can be a great learning tool, connecting with people, ideas, events, it can be used as a discussion tool, in education even in a f2f class and a lot more. But, it can be overwhelming to try and follow everything happening there. There are several desktop and online programs that help with filtering the stream, allowing me to see only what I want to see. So far I've been using tweetDeck as I like the type of control it gives me.

My first Video
I would love to learn more about this Bandicam software so that I can improve the quality of my video and also learn about editing.

I think the best thing about the material this week is that it got me to start experimenting, and in the process I reached a point where I have a clearer idea of where to start.

Monday, September 22, 2014

POTCert Week 3 : Pedagogy and Course Design

Panic is what I felt followed by some "ah that's a good idea" but let me explain.

In spite of being an avid user of the internet and having been experimenting with tools and learning different related skills since 1997, I have never had the chance to design and create an online course. For my f2f courses I always design for maximum trainee involvement, so that the learning objectives are reached through activities such as role plays, games, simulations, individual as well as group projects, case studies and suitably designed discussions and feedback to unpack the learning from all that towards achieving the course objectives. So why panic?

As I went through the readings and videos in a very non linear way I started developing some concerns:

1- Some topics and activities are easier to translate to online than others. E.G. a Business Finance course vs a Train the Trainer course where the trainees are going to be f2f trainers, and must experiment and try different activities in a classroom and get feedback from their colleagues and from me.

2- Blended vs Fully online. Is one better than the other for some subjects or in some circumstances? Is going for blended a cop-out?

3- LMS vs tools from the WWW : Apart from POTCERT itself, all the examples that I've looked at have been created within an LMS, something that I cannot use, at least not yet. How will that impact the design, especially from the point of view of the availability of the tools I need for different activities, to the time that I will need to invest. Is the WWW more limiting, compared to something like Blackboard or just requires thinking outside all the boxes? :)

Describing all the "ah that's a good idea" moments will make this post too long, so I will just briefly mention parts that resonated with or inspired me.

From Chickering and Ehrmann
3. Good Practice Uses Active Learning Techniques
7. Good Practice Respects Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning

From Chapter 3
- the power of delivering a blended course. what was needed was a true redesign of her course to effectively blend and integrate face-to-face and online elements.
- course as a constantly evolving project
- Like the art of translation, course conversion should not merely strive for a word-for-word equivalency, but should allow the new language of communication to be fully exploited. Just as there are some things one can say only in Chinese or Spanish, there are new and different forms of expression.

From Videos
- Different ways of sequencing
- adding a video message to welcome and orient
- Ask the teacher button
- being creative and creating a sense of adventure, curiosity and community

A couple of useful tools that I found
1- Vocaroo
2- Gyazo

Friday, September 19, 2014

Testing post

A Post to test publishing with different elements on the page whenever needed

I was looking for a tool that allows me to post only voice without video when I found Vocaroo. Here I am testing the service by embeding the voice file I created. Here goes.

Audio and voice recording >>

This a test to upload an audacity file converted to MP3

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

POTCert Week 2: Teaching and Learning Online

Going through the material for this week I had the chance to reflect not only on what I usually do in my training and teaching but also why I do it. Two main thoughts persisted.

1- While whatever I do is always guided by Learning Objectives agreed with internal or external clients, I always have one more underlying goal, almost always unwritten, and sometimes never even explicitly agreed, that is for the learners to develop an interest in, and hopefully a passion for continuing to learn beyond any course and have a glimpse of how that can extend to all aspects of their lives.

2-  consequently, when I am choosing learning activities I think effective and relevant, but I also think experiential, lively, fun, thought provoking, connected  among other things. I include a variety that depends on many different factors, I usually end up mixing and matching and combining different types of activities.

Ok so now I think 

when it comes to tools in a f2f (face to face) situation, I have a personal preference for using games and videos (especially humorous training videos) followed by discussions and or reflection. However I know from experience that what I think is the most fun can be the most confusing, frustrating and even boring to some of my trainees. So I learned to be flexible and unattached to the plan, if it's not working at all, I change it to something that can lead to better results (even objectives can be reworked). I realized that the more tools that I know how to use the more flexible I can be. I discovered that being playful and willing to experiment with the tools provides me with many more options and therefore yet more flexibility. 

Yesterday, I watched a plumber working on a pipe in my building. He brought a colleague to help him and both of them initially took out a couple of tools to use. I watched them as they discovered that those tools not only were not working for them in this particular situation but could even have been dangerous. They talked about it and reached out for a different tool then they improvised and used something from the environment around them. I watched them as they changed their mind about what really needed to be done and re-agreeing the goal from simply"fixing that part of the pipe" to adding "maintain the integrity of the rest of the links and not to cause damage to any parts in the process".

Most of my courses are a work in progress. I am always getting feedback from trainees, and colleagues not only about whether results were achieved or not but about the journey there. I am always learning from what seems to work as well as the parts that don't work as expected with a particular group or prove to be annoying to them or to me

Going Online
In front of a walk through tutorial inside a 3D virtual world
It's an environment that I've enjoyed and found exciting since I logged in for the first time in 1997, but that still feels alien and even scary to many. Full of new, expanding, fast changing tools and resources that offer new opportunities and possibilities to do things not possible without the internet, and with them come the need to learn how to use them well and sometimes the frustration of discovering that they too have their limitations. 

A Classroom space near the sea inside a 3D virtual world
A simple example in a language session I can show a short video to a group of people from around the world and literally sit with them in a virtual world to discuss it. One simple limitation is that there is no way to start or stop the video at the exact same time for all of them as they have to do the starting and stopping of their copy of the video that they see. Another example, if we are practicing a language using songs, each participant could record themselves, upload the recording and we play it back or they can sing live but it's almost impossible to have the whole group sing as a chorus due to the delay caused by different internet speeds and I guess the distance. Like in the physical face to face environment, I will have to research the available tools, try them and check the features they offer, learn how to use them and be comfortable with them, mix and match them with other tools to create an effective and fun learning experience. I am still at the beginning and learning.

A friend of mine,  who's one of the best corporate trainers that I've ever watched in action and had the pleasure of working with, once told me that he liked his trainees to like him. I was very surprised and thought it was brave of him to make such a confession. I'd never thought about it that way. I usually feel nervous at the beginning of the course until I feel the trainees starting to relax. Later when I thought about it I realized that apart from the natural human need to feel accepted, I know that if they're comfortable with me and with their colleagues, they'll more readily participate and engage in the learning process. It's definitely easier face to face and online in a synchronous interaction with a small group, but I know it's possible with a big number even asynchronously, it's enough to consider many of the popular self published bloggers and YouTubers who have huge following. They usually create material that is interesting and useful and they they interact with their audience with, what I think is, a genuine friendly manner and interest in helping.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

POTCert week 1: Introduction > Hi from Cairo Egypt

Hello! I am Maha, connecting to the course from Cairo, Egypt. While I am Egyptian by birth, I lived most of my childhood in Kuwait and as an adult I spent around 22 years working, first in The Sultanate of Oman then in The United Arab Emirates until I recently relocated back to Egypt.

 I am a self employed Learning & development Consultant. In my case this mainly means that I am a trainer, life and executive coach and an instructional designer. I've been so lucky as my job has given me the opportunity to work with people from over 30 different nationalities and travel to some  10 different countries in the Middle East, Asia and Eastern Europe. I love learning languages and enjoy teaching them and that's why I teach Arabic and English both f2f and online.

This blog is still a Work in Progress and may continue to be for a long time, so

Welcome to my Sandbox.  I am looking forward to experimenting and learning with you. :)