This paper explores how Cloudworks might be used as a ‘pedagogical wrapper’ for LAMS sequences. That is, act as a framework to support the sharing of ideas across professional boundaries and facilitating collaborative design, evaluation and critical reflection.
Cloudworks is a place for sharing and discussions learning and teaching ideas. And has been developed by the Open University as part of the Open University Learning Design initiative - and part funded by JISC. The site has been designed to make the best of Web 2.0 practices to promote intra- and inter- community activity and discussion around learning and teaching Clouds are the key ‘objects’ and these are grouped into Cloudscapes The site was launched in its current form in July 2009 and the source code will be available openly from the end of next month. The site currently has nearly 3,000 registered users and approximately 250 new people registering per month In total the site has had over 80,000 visitors from more than 165 counties (approx 6,000 visitors each month)
We are all familiar with the argument that there is a need for a fundamental change in the way in which we design and support learning interventions. That traditional outcomes-based, assessment driven and standardised educational systems and processes do not meet the needs of today’s learners. Firstly, there is the broader societal context within which educational sits. Giddens, Castells and others describe the networked and globalised nature of modern society, and the impact of the changing nature of society values (including the defragmentation of the family unit, polarised perspectives on secular vs. religion-based beliefs and changing roles for individuals and organisations). We have seen a shift from the industrial to the information age, where knowledge work has replaced manual labour as the predominant form of work. The greater complexity of modern society (both in terms of social systems and technological tools) requires specific types of competences to make sense of, and interact within, this context - such as higher order thinking skills, problem solving, systems thinking and the ability to communicate, collaborate and interact effectively with others. Within this broader societal context there are a number of specific triggers influencing and shaping the context of modern education. In terms of approaches to learning, there has been a general shift away from individual, behaviourist approaches to those that are more authentic, contextual and social in nature - Constructivist and dialogic approaches have become more prevalent. Secondly, over the past thirty years or so technologies have had a steady and increasing impact on how learning is designed and supported - from the early days of programme instruction and computer-assisted learning packages through to the use of the Web and more recently Web 2.0 tools and services, online gaming environments, mobile devices and 3D environments like SecondLife.
New pedagogies and innovative use of technologies seem to offer so much in terms of providing new, exciting educational experiences for learners. But there is little evidence of them being used. Educational innovations in both pedagogical approaches and innovative use of technologies remain the remit of educational innovators or early adopters, there is little evidence of mainstream adoption and, depressingly, taken as a whole, the majority of educational offerings are still based on fairly traditional approaches, with a primary focus on content and assessment of outcomes, delivered via traditional didactic approaches. It is important not to underestimate these barriers which are not just technical, but also pedagogical and organisational in nature. As part of the OULDI project we have conducted many interviews with teachers working in HE and they tell us for example: [there is a] “problem of doing something new (for example, oral assessment). Innovation is encouraged in the university but systems are quite set in their ways.” They often mention a lack of time or lack of skills or that they receive not support or rewards for using technologies. There is an inherent tension between the pressures of excelling in research versus promoting innovative approaches to learning and teaching. Teachers lack the necessary new forms of digital literacies needed to make effective use of new technologies, and some have concerns as to whether or not these new technologies are indeed any better than existing approaches They tell us that what they want are case studies, other practitioners to talk to and discuss ideas with - and it is this need that Cloudworks hopes to address.
The Open University Learning Design Initiative applies a design approach to teaching and learning processes with the aim of enabling practitioners to make more informed choices about their creation of learning interventions and better use of good pedagogy and new technologies. An approach which: Utilises a shared design language to both generate designs and as a mechanism for interpreting and discussing Uses a notational system which helps us remember and navigate designs, enables designs to take form and be shared, and helps us sharpen and multiply abstract design categories And recognises that different representations of a design are needed to articulate certain elements of the design, while ignoring others. It sees design as a conscious process which involves a dialogue both with and about the materials. It is seen as a creative and communicative process and an essentially social activity.
Cloudworks has been developed in order to support these social, collaborative and dialogic design processes - throughout development we have drawn considerably on the work of Engestrom, Dron and Anderson, and Bouman. Firstly, the site is essentially object-centred rather than ego-centred in nature. Engestrom focuses on the notion of social objects, saying that: The term 'social networking' makes little sense if we leave out the objects that mediate the ties between people. Think about the object as the reason why people affiliate with each specific other and not just anyone... And goes on to argue: “ The fallacy is to think that social networks are just made up of people. They're not; social networks consist of people who are connected by a shared object.”
Secondly, the design framework is one based on sociality. Core to this approach are a number of assumptions which come from Bouman et al. Firstly, that the system needs to accommodate both the evolution of practices and the inclusion of newcomers. Secondly, that individual identity is important so there needs to be a mechanism to enable the development of identities. Thirdly they argue that people are more inclined to use software systems that resemble their daily routines, language and practices than to adopt whole new concepts, interfaces and methods. And that metaphors and structures that mimic real life practices are likely to be more successful
We have always recognised that different people will want to use a variety of different tools and representations for designing learning activities, and that this is largely dependent on context, skills and the stage they are in the design process. So, Cloudworks has not been tied to any specific tool, but allows people a choice of formats for design (pen and paper, text-based formats, concept and mind-mapping tools, systems such as LAMS and meaning making tools like Cohere). And all of these examples can be seen being used in the site.
And yet to date ... (although there has been a great deal of very productive sharing of ‘snippets’ of practice on Cloudworks - discussing and sharing a new teaching tool, or a teaching and learning experience, or asking a tricky and interesting pedagogical question) ...there has been little sharing of what might be described as ‘worked designs’. James Dalziel has recognised similar patterns in the LAMS community forum. In that people will discuss technical issues and share snippets of information - and these discussions can be rich and sustained - but they will not hold the rich educational discussions about implementation of designs, and experiences with students, needed if the vision of learning design is to be achieved.
And so, part of the OULDI-JISC funding has been allocated for collaborative work with LAMS and the LAMS Community to contribute to the overall goals of both projects. We believe that Cloudworks can add value in terms of facilitating the sharing of LAMS sequences across new communities, and providing a space which supports and encourages discourse around the pedagogic aspects of design. There are two aspects to the project the first is the development of a new “embed” function necessary to allow a sequence that is uploaded to the LAMS Community to be embedded into any other web page and James’ team has been working on this...the aim is that practitioners will be able to explore the design while remaining in Cloudworks, and have access to all the associated resources and references. The second aspect is the development of a series of recommendations about the sort of information, or pedagogical ‘wrapper’, teachers may find useful when using or repurposing someone else’s sequence and how the Cloud may be presented and structured to promote discussion, collaboration and reciprocal sharing of new designs. If we are successful then we would expect to see vibrant discussions around the designs with participants from a range of sectors and with a range of technical experience and knowledge. We would see examples of Designs that have been collaboratively improved, used and reflectively evaluated.
And so ... recently we have been developing a framework to enable us to more systematically position dialogic transactions and patterns of activity, so that we can better encourage and support specific types of interaction and activity which we anticipate may lead to community and knowledge building, more sustained participation, and sharing of designs. Our interest is in supporting the process of development of weak ties between groups to the stronger more cohesive ties that can be seen to emerge from repeated and iterative collaborative activity that happens within, across and between more established communities. Our framework focuses on supporting 4 aspects: Firstly Participation – Encouragement and support for a core group of participants, who contribute regularly and in encourage the engagement and activity of others. Strategies to engage or ‘nudge’ participants to make repeated contributions. Ways of prompting people to contribute into the wider Cloudworks space and draw others back to the designs. Identification of the special roles participants can take on and understanding of the hierarchical structures which we can see are effective in promoting and supporting collaborative activity. Secondly Cohesion – Providing a space that fosters professional and friendly discussion which encourages new, and perhaps inexperienced, visitors to participate. A space where people show a willingness to listen and learn from others. Thirdly Identity – Support for communities in establishing a shared vocabulary and phraseology. A place where participants can start to feel a sense of belonging, or sense of ‘us’. And finally, Creative capability – Ensuring that visitors to the site understand the purpose of what they are doing. Are helped to develop the skills they need to participate in the space. Feel drawn to participate and get involved. A framework so that they feel able to share experiences from a variety of different contexts, contradict and challenge assumptions and establish and articulate links between concepts and ideas? And we have used these factors to inform our recommendations for the ‘pedagogical wrapper’ template.
What we have called a ‘pedagogical wrapper’ will appear as a structured Cloud template. Whatever the format of the design, the template will ask for the key information that teachers have suggested they need: Details on the context of the design (f2f or online/ age of learners/ level/ subject or discipline). An indication of the degree of transferability (this could be provided as an embedded voting tool). Links to supporting resources, websites, documents etc used in the session. Relevant academic references either to papers/case studies on the use of the design sequence or related work. A reflective evaluation from the designer. What worked well and what did not work well and some suggestions as to why that might have been. Links to variations and repurposed designs. But this in itself is unlikely to prove sufficient in establishing a culture of design sharing on the site. We know from our observations on Cloudworks that the commitment of a core group of participants is key to the development of sustained activity and collaboration over time. This core group take on social roles; offering encouragement, reassurance, feedback and advice, and also play a part in facilitating more complex discussions such as disagreements or confusion. Although the Cloudworks and LAMS teams can initially perform these roles, this is not sustainable long term, or even medium term, and is not as effective in securing engagement as when the social and support roles are carried out from within the community. There are a number of ways of securing commitment from a core group but the most effective may be to recruit ‘mentors’ for a fixed initial period from the established Cloudworks community and then formally offer the role to new community members as they emerge. The behaviours of individuals within this core group can be seen to impact on the language and culture of the transient communities that build up around objects, and particularly the ways that individuals begin to interact and relate to each other. Support and tolerance, turn taking and response, humour and playfulness are all behaviours common in vibrant and productive communities (Herring, 1994, Walzer, 1997, Rafaeli & Sudweeks, 1997). Language is a key part of this and we have observed that an authentic, discursive and referential style supports discussion and encourages new participants, whereas formalised and ‘stand-alone’ statements tend to quickly shut down discussion. In addition to the recruitment of ‘mentors’, it will be important that any templates, support documents and other resources designed as part of this collaboration mimic the informal and discursive style we would like to foster on the Clouds themselves. A sense of community or group identity is multi-faceted and builds over time as a result of repeated and iterative interaction and activity. Email alerts, RSS feeds and Cloudstreams can all help to prompt repeated activity. But is is also important that activity that builds up around Learning Design objects is purposeful and productive if we are to see genuine and widespread sharing and improvement of designs. Participants must be clear about the purpose of the activity and their role in it. The template will be important in ensuring that Cloud owners make the purpose of their Cloud explicit and explain what they hope to get from participants (ideas, feedback, shared experience, examples of how they have repurposed a Design etc). The template will also be crucial in facilitating the construction of knowledge links and patterns within and between Clouds.
The aim of this work is to foster greater dissemination of Learning Design ideas by allowing for Web 2.0 style discussion and debate of exemplar LAMS sequences within Cloudworks, based around live experiences of real, running sequences. Whilst we remain aware of the significant challenges, we recognise the potential of such an approach. At the moment we are at still the theoretical stage. Key to the success of this piece of work will be the development of an easy to use and flexible embed function, and a clear framework for discussion around the pedagogical and pragmatic aspects of designs. This should be complete by the end of the month and the templates will be added to the site by the end of the summer. Your comments and questions would be most welcome at this stage!
Cloudworks as a ‘pedagogical wrapper’ supporting the sharing of ideas across professional boundaries. Rebecca Galley, Grainne Conole, James Dalziel and Ernie Ghiglione European LAMS & Learning Design Conference, Oxford, 15 th July 2010
A place for sharing and discussions learning and teaching ideas
Application of the best of Web 2.0 practices
Launched July 2009
Nearly 3,000 registered users
Over 80,000 visitors
Stats June12th – July 12 th 2010
New technologies Foundations: The changing context of education Globalisation Massification Privatisation Learner expectations Industry requirements Faculty roles
Foundations: Technology paradoxes Paradoxes Technologies not fully exploited Little evidence of use of free resources Media sharing Blogs & wikis Reasons Technical, pedagogical, organisational… “ Lack of time, research vs. teaching, lack of skills, no rewards, no support….” Solutions? Case studies, support networks Learning Design Virtual worlds & online games Social networking
“ Educational discussion of learning design issues remains patchy, whereas by comparison, technical discussion of the software is rich and sustained. While this pattern has been mirrored in the Sakai community (Masson, 2006), successful implementation of the learning design vision requires rich educational discussions of implementation and experiences with students.”
Dalziel, J. (2007, p.383)
The Challenge: rich and sustained pedagogical discussion
Development of a new “embed” function necessary to allow a sequence that is uploaded to the LAMS Community to be embedded into any other web page (including of course Cloudworks!)
Recommendations about the sort of information, or pedagogical ‘wrapper’, teachers may find useful when using or repurposing someone else’s sequence and how the Cloud may be presented and structured to promote discussion, collaboration and reciprocal sharing of new designs.
Supporting interaction and productive activity