Redesigning the weekly ramble

The reflections on my couple of days at the PLE Conference in Melbourne will have to wait a couple of days. Semester starts on Monday and I have some course preparation to engage with. The following is an attempt to capture some thinking about the re-design of the Weekly Ramble

The old ramble

Essentially a conversation around a collection of resources and activities relevant to the topics for a given week in the EDC3100 course. Designed quickly before the start of last semester, now being re-designed quickly at the beginning of this semester. The idea being that the resources/activities would serve as springboards for further student exploration.

Last semester the rambles we’re implemented using Moodle Book module. With one book per ramble per week. A very quick and dirty analysis of the student feedback reveals the following

  1. Many of the students loved the change away from online lectures which, in their experience, were little more than reading of the slides. The rambles had them being more active.
  2. Many of the students hated the rambles. Their major concerns seemed to be the uncertainty about how much to do, but also the apparent loss of that verbal connection the lecture gave.
  3. Both sets of students tended to mention the difficulty of finding that great idea or resource that was mentioned in one of the rambles that they’d seen previously.

The last point arose from the nature of the book module, how I used it, and the absence of a decent search facility within Moodle (Aside: this stikes me as a pretty big hole in functionality.)

What follows are my current ideas for solutions to these problems.

From one to many books/activities

Rather than a single book activity each ramble, the plan is to break it up into very separate activities with (hopefully) meaningful titles. Enabling folk to see the content of the ramble from the course site. Perhaps evolve into using groupings etc to give different activities to different groups of students.

Why am I using the book module at all? Why not simply use a range of Moodle activities? Part of the reason is that I doubt I’ve truly yet got the Moodle model. It’s quite a bit different from what I’ve used previously. But it’s also a desire to have a conversation, to give some context to the students before launching them into activities.

Explicit direction

How it all fits together needs to be a bit clearer. The “why” and “so what” questions for the activities need to be clearer for the students. Both through me being more explicit about it, but also encouraging them to answer those questions.

Investigate encouraging teacher identity

A part of making it clearer and having the students engage in this thinking, is to move them beyond seeing themselves as students. Even with the rhetoric of “pre-service teacher” it seems that many of them think of themselves as students. And particularly pragmatic students at that.

I’m wondering if, within the constraints of the experience of University life, it is possible to encourage them to identify more as teachers, than students? I also wonder if this is successful whether it will actually encourage changes in practice/behaviour from them? I think this is going to be difficult in that I’m not sure that the assessment (e.g. a 70% final assignment) and other characteristics of this course are conducive to encouraging this mindshift.

Perhaps I should start referring to them as teachers. Wonder how that will go down? Will it annoy some that I’m using that title for people who haven’t been officially accredited? Reminds me of Dr Karl’s habit of calling everyone “Dr”. Is getting the pre-service teachers to think of themselves as teachers the right identity anyway?

Continue with the “Ramble followups” – perhaps with some structure

To address the feeling of loss associated with no online lectures/tutorials, we started a ramble followup. A gathering in a Wimba room at the end of each week to discuss any questions the students had. While only lightly utilisied it seemed to address some of the concerns. There is perhaps some value in adding a bit more structure to these sessions, especially in terms of encouraging identity formation.

Greater encouragement with external connections

Given the #pleconf experience and the subsequent mini-explosion of connections I have to useful and interesting people and resources for pre-service teachers, it seems sensible to try a bit harder and a bit smarter at encouraging the teachers in this course to connect with other teachers. Perhaps it is establishing these networks that will truly get them thinking as teachers.

6 thoughts on “Redesigning the weekly ramble

  1. Hi David.

    First off, I want to say that the ICT & Pedagogy subject last semester with you was the BEST subject I’ve done at USQ. It was challenging and interesting. I LOVED the rambles; it allowed for self-direction, further exploration and was a nice change from boring slide presentations (some USQ subjects have taken “death by powerpoint” to a new level!). Your encouragement for us to start blogging, tweeting and using Diigo has been a major change for me and I have found increasing my PLN to be a very positive experience both personally and educationally.

    I think the massive 70% assignment linked to a 3rd year PRAC is going to be a major issue for you in terms of getting students to consider themselves as teachers. Through some of my previous blogging I have had a few North American blogger teacher friends tell me that I am already a “teacher”. Which is true, not only because I have taught in the past at the tertiary level, but because I teach now…..I teach my kids, my friends, myself and on prac.

    Have fun this semester!


    1. Thanks for the nice comments Elke.

      I think you’ve nailed a couple of important points.

      As I said above, I agree with the thought that the 70% assignment seems to encourage all the worst aspects of pragmatic “student-ship”. It’s just worth so much and seen as so difficult – especially as it is due straight after prac. I’m seriously thinking that next year – when I have a chance to redesign the assessment – that I’d like to have a lot more assessable activity during the term in the shape of smaller, more regular activities. More thought to be done here.

      The second is that you already to think of yourself as a teacher. I agree with blogging teacher friends, you act as if you are a teacher. Based on the experience last semester, there does seem to be some sort of connection between seeing yourself as a teacher and engaging with the PLN type activities.

      Hence my interest in exploring identity, its impact and how to encourage it within the context of the course.

  2. Two things that I’ve done is refer to everyone in an online class as participants (including me), and also to have an open conversation about what happens if we all consider ourselves simply as learners. In other words, it’s not necessarily about changing the student identity into “teacher”, but revealing the latent learner identity hidden behind the mask of teacher. The third thing that we explored together was what happens if everyone is engaged in the class as a researcher, as a way of connecting to future professional identity practices.

    I’m working on a similar approach for the upcoming semester so I’ve been very grateful for your willingness to share your ideas-in-progress — your original “ramble” post really stuck with me.

    1. Like your point about the “learner identity” behind the teacher. I hope it’s something I model. The problem I’m seeing is that too many of the learners/teachers see themselves as students. Passive entities waiting to be filled and/or actively seeking how they can pass, rather than how they can learn. i.e. surface learners.

      Would love to hear how you go with your approach. Have to go finish the first version of the new ramble now.

  3. Pingback: Starting the re-design of EDC3100 « The Weblog of (a) David Jones

  4. Pingback: Open Educational Practice: the boring way and more interesting ways – The Weblog of (a) David Jones

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