From tomorrow, Wednesday August 28, I will be moving from my current role as Technology Enhanced Learning Manager, Graduate & Professional Studies, to take up my new appointment as University of Limerick (UL) Project Lead for the Irish Universities Association (IUA) Enhancing Digital Capacity in Teaching and Learning in Irish Universities project, or Enhancing Digital Teaching & Learning for short – #IUADigEd.
This project is funded under the Higher Education Authority’s Innovation and Transformation fund 2018. The role is a specific purpose contract for 2 and a half years and is based locally in the Centre for Transformative Learning (previously Centre for Teaching and Learning).
Each of the 7 Irish Universities will appoint or already have appointed a similar role, based locally within their respective Teaching & Learning Centres, etc., whom I endeavour to work closely with. The project will be spearheaded from the IUA Office in Dublin under the stewardship of Project Manager, Dr Sharon Flynn (twitter, medium).
This project sees the coming together of 3 major national level partners in the higher education landscape in Ireland – the Higher Education Authority, the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning and the Irish Universities Association.
It’s a nationally driven project that will be operationalised within each of the 7 Irish Universities through the institutional Project Leads and their institutional networks of learning technologists, academic developers, instructional designers, etc., which aims to consolidate, further enhance and make sustainable what has already been achieved to date with regard to building sectoral digital capacity. At the national level, as the project progresses, a network of networks will continue to emerge.
Across and within the 7 Irish Universities, this project seeks to mainstream the appropriate, competent and confident use of digital technologies in order to achieve pedagogical aims, by addressing the professional development of all who teach and support teaching & learning related activities. The underlying approach is pedagogy first, taking advantage of the affordances of available technologies to support this approach. The focus of the project centres on students’ digital experiences.
In Ireland, substantial work has been carried out already over the past few years within the realm of building sectoral digital capacity, particularly through the work of the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning and its associated projects. The #IUADigEd project recognises this fantastic work and the significant progress that has been made to date in this regard and aims to further build on this through a co-ordinated and collaborative approach across the University sector.
The #IUADigEd project completely aligns with the 4 strategic priorities set out in the National Forum’s Strategy 2019-2021, Leading Enhancement and Innovation in Teaching and Learning, namely
- Student Success – and three strategically important ways to achieve that are,
- The Professional Development of All Those Who Teach,
- Teaching and Learning in a Digital World,
- Teaching and Learning Enhancement Within and Across Disciplines.
The core objectives of the IUA’s Enhancing Digital Teaching and Learning (#IUADigEd) project are student focussed and seek to
- enhance the digital attributes of all Irish university graduates, and to
- enhance the educational experiences of all Irish university students through the mainstreamed and integrated use of digital technologies, including social media where appropriate, as part of the teaching and learning process.
To achieve these objectives, an important foundational third objective will also be necessary
- to enhance the digital skills of those who teach in Irish universities.
Beyond digital skills enhancement even, the goal might be to build digital competence and capacity amongst those who teach in Irish Universities, as well as our students. Rightly or wrongly, I view a skill as having the ability to do something. Competency, then, showcases the degree to which a skill, or skills, can be performed proficiently or well. Of course, performing something well can be seen to be a subjective indicator – what’s good for one person mightn’t necessarily fall into that same defined category for another.
A possible framework to hang project activities from
The European Framework for the Digital Competence of Educators (DigCompEdu) provides a very useful framework that puts pedagogy first, distinguishing 6 areas in which educators’ Digital Competence is expressed with a total of 22 competencies. Likely, the institutional and national-level professional development activities developed from this project, will be mapped to this framework.
Running a Pilot
In terms of a unit of change, there is some evidence from the National Forum that suggests engagement at the disciplinary level, or with a programme team (both intra- and inter-institutionally), appears to be a good way to try to achieve sustainable and meaningful change. So, rather than only working with individual technology champions randomly dispersed on-campus, the needs and goals of an entire disciplinary group can be identified and addressed, thereby impacting their competence, confidence and capacity with digital technologies. For example, the pedagogical needs of a discipline group that I would hope to work with might revolve around something like:
- digital assessment and feedback
- activities to enhance students’ digital skills and competencies in line with graduate attributes
- supporting collaborative and peer learning activities
- supporting discourse digitally
- supporting active learning in the classroom using a flipped approach
- increasing awareness of OEP, and OER curation and adaptation, etc.
Pilot projects will be carried out in each institution based on existing expertise and the on-the-ground resources and personnel at their disposal, the strategic mission and goals of the specific institution, the discipline(s) expressing interest in being involved, and their own specific needs. All project activities will intend to support their digital innovation and change.
Towards a Professional Development Programme for Digital Capacity
An anticipated outcome of this project is the development of a national professional development programme for digital capacity that may consist of
- A framework for digital competencies, based on the DigCompEdu framework, mapped to the National Digital Experience surveys for staff and students, the National Professional Development Framework for all who teach in higher education in Ireland, the DELTA awards scheme, and providing a structure for professional development activities related to digital capacity across the sector.
- A connected and growing community of staff developers (educational technologists, learning technologists, academic staff developers, instructional designers) working within and between the universities to support academic skill development, and sharing expertise, knowledge and resources.
- A collection of resources, micro-credentials and modules that can be combined in a flexible way to build tailored PD programmes aligned to the framework. All outputs will be open and shared through appropriate existing collections, e.g. the NF PD open courses, the All Aboard framework, betterlecturers.ie.
I’m excited about this new role and the challenges that lay ahead for me, both within UL and nationally, as one individual ‘node’ in this emergent network of networks.
This blog post will provide a brief introduction and overview of the European e-VALUATE project as it currently stands and will provide a snapshot of its primary aim to further the recognition, validation and accreditation of new forms of open online learning.
Tomorrow, as part of the European e-VALUATE project, I attend the e-VALUATE Work Conference in Humanity House, The Hague, Netherlands, where I represent my university, the University of Limerick, as the Irish higher education institution (HEI) resonance group representative, along with Quality & Qualifications (QQI) NARIC Ireland, the Irish project team member led by Angela Lambkin.
One of the great hopes for online learning lies in its capability to open up new learning possibilities to those who traditionally have had little access to higher education. For this to be realised, certificates etc. awarded to students for undertaking online learning on whatever platform, will need to become greater recognised as a means to progress onto further study (via RPL, exemptions, and other methods) and to employment.
Outcomes of these ‘alternative’ learning experiences aren’t always captured and can go unnoticed within current HEI recognition practices which focus primarily on assessing prospective student’s qualifications obtained through formal or more ‘traditional’ forms of education. In tandem with improved recognition practice comes a need to quality assure the online learning being recognised so that evaluators and institutions can safely stand over the certificates being awarded as a means for awardees to gain entry onto their institutional programmes of study. The e-VALUATE project is looking to expand upon this to provide further clarity and guidance in the area of recognition of non-standard standalone e-learning.
e-VALUATE is an Erasmus+ project co-funded by the European Commission. The project consortium comprises representatives from the ENIC-NARIC network (ENIC = European Network of Information Centres, NARIC = National Academic Recognition Information Centres):
NARIC The Netherlands (Project Coordinator), NARIC Denmark, NARIC Lithuania, NARIC Norway, NARIC Ireland, and UK NARIC. Other partners involved are the Vice-President of the Lisbon Recognition Convention Committee, the European Consortium for Accreditation in higher education (ECA) and Kiron, the non-governmental organisation enabling access to higher education and learning for refugees through digital solutions.
To ensure that the representative views and experiences of European HEIs are taken on board, a resonance group was formed comprising HEI representatives from each of the project team nations involved. My University received correspondence from QQI NARIC Ireland via the Irish Universities Association (IUA) and I was fortunate to be invited to be the representative Irish HEI resonance group member, which I accepted.
Aims and Outputs
e-VALUATE aims to offer evaluators handling applications some practical, accessible information and guidance on academic recognition, validation and accreditation of new forms of open online learning – MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), SPOCs (Small Personal/Private Online Courses), and other forms of standalone online learning, etc. The target groups for the project are HEIs, ENIC-NARIC centres, students, online education providers, policymakers, and refugee organisations such as Kiron.
The project proposes to produce two main outputs: a Position paper and an Online Learning Information Tool for HEIs.
The position paper will aim to provide clarity and raise awareness about what is needed to ensure online learning is recognised for admission to a HEI or for exemption from parts of a formal programme of study. It’s aimed at policy makers and educational staff involved in online learning provision at HEIs, online learning platforms (MOOCs etc.), and other stakeholders such as government bodies, quality assurance organisations and university umbrella organisations.
The Online Learning Information Tool will offer practical and easily accessible information for the purpose of academic recognition of MOOCs, SPOCs, and other forms of standalone online learning. The tool will be geared towards use by practitioners in the field of recognition. Depending on the context and purpose of its use, this tool will be useful to a diverse range of stakeholders including:
- University admissions office staff
- University access office staff
- Faculty course directors
- Boards of examiners
- Credential evaluators at ENIC-NARIC’s
Quality assurance of open online learning
In a previous publication entitled ‘Oops a MOOC!‘ – a paper produced as part of the New Paradigms in Recognition (PARADIGMS) project – the e-VALUATE project coordinator, NARIC Netherlands, led a project aimed at developing minimum standards that MOOCs and in-company training programmes should meet for the purpose of recognition. The findings presented in the paper are also relevant for HEIs.
The paper proposed 7 Criteria for assessment, including descriptions and indicators, against which open online learning could be recognised by a credential evaluator:
1. Quality of the study programme
2. Verification of the certificate
3. Level of the study programme
4. Learning outcomes
6. The way study results are tested
7. Identification of the participant
As a subsequent second step, the paper proposed use of the traffic light model as described in the JRC Science for Policy Report (p.6). Each of the 7 criteria above can be strongly present (green), present to some extent (orange) or not present at all (red). It’s also possible that no information is available on specific criteria (no info). Therefore, by using this traffic light model in conjunction with the 7 criteria for assessment, it’s possible to begin to evaluate whether a particular form of standalone e-learning is more or less suitable for recognition.
If HEIs begin to openly adhere to these criteria for acceptance onto their study programmes then it further becomes beholden on e-learning providers who are interested in ensuring that students who receive further academic recognition from their e-learning courses, HEIs themselves included, to bear in mind these criteria and the presence of them when designing and developing their offerings so that they can ensure adequate and appropriate academic recognition for the awardees of their certificates.
I understand that the Online Learning Information Tool aims to build upon this previous work to be a practical, easy-to-use, interactive object, helping practitioners in the field of recognition to assess all forms of open online learning that they might encounter during applications admissions processes.
I’m looking forward to delving a little deeper into this at tomorrow’s work conference.
This post is part of the #OpenBlog19 open writing/blogging challenge idea initiated by David Hopkins. If you’re interested in participating too take a look at this Google Doc for a list of interesting blog post ideas and follow along the hashtag, #OpenBlog19.
David has already penned his thoughts in his own post on the same topic. My post is in part a response to the call to action in David’s post
“Now, what about you, what about you and your notes?”
For the most part I’m a fan of note-taking. I jot down and journal lots of different things in note form either as written text, graphs or shapes – things like records of meetings, action items, ideas for posts, ideas for work, problem-solving jottings, conference notes, ways of thinking or looking at things from different perspectives, etc. If I take notes on paper I usually later transcribe a distilled version of them into an app on my laptop.
I used to use Quip as the main note-taking app on my laptop, however in the last few months I’ve shifted over to the Notion.so app as my all-in-one note-taking solution and pay the annual subscription for the personal plan. I’m really liking it so far, in particular the flexibility it affords me to structure my notes and note folders the way that I want them. It’s a really good space to just write/type everything down in a draft raw format that I can tidy up and refine as I go or come back to at a later stage. And you can associate emoji icons with each new page that you create…for ease of reference! 👀
I view note-taking as my ‘Studio’ space, a place I can write what and whatever way I want to. I can be creative with ideas, even if they amount to little. It’s a space for me to be expressionate as well as to record the more ordinary aspects of life. I subscribe to the idea of the Stoic art of journaling and note-taking as a sort of journaling practice.
I take notes in practically every meeting I’m involved in, if only for my own posterity of what was said or to catalogue actions that came about which were relevant to me – without my notes and personal and professional calendars, I’m not sure how well my mind would cope! Sometimes when I’m scribbling during a meeting I find that I can process what I hear with clarity, possibly with even greater clarity than if I am consciously focusing on listening attentively. It’s as if the mind shifts gear into its state of flow.
Although I’d love to be able to artfully craft sketchnotes, my notes are more like the ‘only I can read them‘ variety, constructed with my own hieroglyphic-like combination of text, graphs, shapes and drawings. Nonetheless, I think they are an invaluable record of what happened if my memory ever fails me.
Even though I carry a notepad and pen with me to the majority of meetings I attend, I also regularly bring along my laptop with me to take notes on. However, even though the laptop and note-taking technology I use are very much an enabler for me, I’ve noticed in certain meetings that having the laptop open and taking notes with it is very much a barrier from some people engaging with me as they would normally engage if I hadn’t the laptop with me. It’s something I’ve grown more acutely aware of. It doesn’t bother me when someone uses their laptop in meetings I’m involved in, I understand it, but I imagine the presence of the laptop for some people is like if there were a third party in the meeting room who oughtn’t really be there.
Now when I get the sense that a person or people would prefer if there wasn’t a laptop on the desk between us, I move it out of the way or shut it off completely, reverting to making mental notes or scribbling down only the most important points in bulleted list format. Sometimes the dynamic flow of conversation in a meeting can be rescued by this act, other times I’ve found it has been a little more difficult to re-attract attention back to meaningful dialogue. It’s all a matter of perspective I suppose.
Personally, I find threaded tweeting at a conference a little distracting for me to accomplish successfully, especially trying to do so in real-time as a talk is ongoing. I’ve tried it on a few occasions now but I’ve grown conscious of being only ‘half present’, caught between the multitasking nature of trying to listen intently to the nuggets of wisdom of the conference speaker and trying to post updates for my own record and to let others following the backchannel know what’s going on. Of course, adversely, if I’m unable to attend a conference and am trying to follow along with what’s happening, I’m hugely grateful to those who thread together what’s going on live from the event.
What about you, do you take notes anymore? Have you noticed anything about your note-taking practice of significance to you or those around you? Would love to hear any comments or replies you might have.
The National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning in Ireland recently launched its Online Open-Access Professional Development Short Course platform aimed broadly at the ongoing professional development of all who teach in Irish Higher Education.
“This interface is designed as a ‘one stop shop’ for those colleagues who are interested in courses under the broad heading of Professional Development. The offerings are the result of work by National Forum staff and by higher education colleagues across the sector. As such, this space reflects the collaborative commitment of the HE community to ongoing professional development towards positive individual, institutional and sectoral change.”
The launch of this open course initiative aligns with the vision set out by the Forum in it’s National Professional Development Framework for All Staff Who Teach in Higher Education published in 2016. (View the document directly).
The PD Framework is underpinned by certain core values – Inclusivity, Authenticity, Scholarship, Learner-centeredness, and Collaboration – and articulates five key domains that all staff who teach in Irish higher education should consider when planning to engage in meaningful professional development:
- Personal Development: The ‘Self’ in Teaching and Learning
Professional Identity, Values and Development in Teaching and Learning
Professional Communication and Dialogue in Teaching and Learning
- Professional Knowledge and Skills in Teaching and Learning
- Personal and Professional Digital Capacity in Teaching and Learning
This development showcases the foresight of the National Forum and emphasises how important it views its committment to devising and promoting the professional development of all staff who teach in Irish HEI’s. In particular, it recognises the increased hybridisation of roles over the past decade or so in Irish Higher Education. A number of roles outside of the traditonal lecturer role find themselves with the responsibility of teaching, or designing and developing teaching and learning interventions.
An online open-access short course platform for ongoing professional development of all Irish HE staff is a positive, welcome and progressive development from the National Forum and one worth keeping a watchful eye on.
The penultimate week of the #EL30 MOOC, Experience.
The learning task as set by Stephen called for us to creatively represent our experiences of the #El30 cMOOC and to post about it:
Be creative! Using the medium of your choice, create a representation of your experience of E-Learning 3.0. Then post your creation (or post a link to your creation) on your blog.Source
Here’s a good example of the sort of thing you could create, by Kevin Hodgeson (who apparently also studied mind reading as he completed this Task before it was posted).
If you need inspiration, visit the DS106 Assignment Bank and select one of the assignments, and then interpret it in the light of E-Learning 3.0.
Be creative! No problem…! Creativity has most often been something that has spontaneously come to me rather than something I felt I could tap into on-demand.
This was a tough one but enjoyable once I reflected on it . And the example given of Kevin’s work was incredible.
At this time of the year, I feel a bit like a pot that’s almost reached the boil and need a valve to be released. So it was fantastic to have the inspiration of other participants creative posts and the inspiration of the online exchange between Stephen and Amy Burvall to refer to this week.
Creating a representation of my experience of E-Learning 3.0
To represent my own experience (in a festive way as it’s almost Christmas!) I’ve chosen to capture some pictures of a winter tree with lights and create a quick GIF. The representation I’ve chosen comprises some metaphorical elements which I will explain my interpretation of below.
With this image my intention is to focus on growth, the notion of emerging community, change and adaptation, decentralisation, a blend of both the natural (tree) and human (electrical lights), independence and interdependence, and the collective whole.
I did not create or plant the tree, which I feel is apt for this #EL30 experience/creativity task. I’m just capturing my sense of it by taking a snapshot, the view of it from my perspective.
The tree as a structure is always growing, ever-changing and adapting. It sheds its leaves at certain times and grows new ones. It is both a product of its environment and something that shapes it. Much the same can be said about the future of education and e-learning.
The root structure of the tree also serves as an interesting metaphor. The underground roots, not visible in the photograph, might well describe all that remains hidden on the #EL30 journey, nonetheless, the hidden roots are vitally important to sustain the tree’s survival and growth. Many details, messages and talking points from this iteration of #EL30 are likely being discussed and analysed in lots of physical and virtual spaces and places – blog posts and social media are but some of these spaces. These thoughts and conversations might be hidden but they are no less important to the future of education and e-learning.
The lights on the tree might represent more than one thing . Light is seen as something hopeful, something illuminating and good. The network of lights might be the modules and topics we have encountered during #EL30, the collective neural network of our posts, the ideas and creative learning artefacts which we’ve all contributed to #EL30, etc., etc.
But I prefer to think of each light on the tree as a person from the group of #El30 participants. The lights are all connected together by an electrical current, wires and cable (these vectors could all be metaphors of their own – I’ll let that up to you to decide) to form the graph or network structure of lights that are distributed in a decentralised way all around the tree. Perhaps it might have been better if the lights were all of different colours, or if some faded on and off, to represent the diversity of each of us, our interactions, our interests and our perspectives.
No node or light stands out as being the centre. There is an evident independence and interdependence. There is no light visibly larger or brighter than another, a concept I feel that Stephen has tried to bring across in this course – everyone can and should be encouraged and empowered to actively and creatively contribute to the decentralised community experience and to take opportunities to communicate directly with other lights.
The latest topic for #El30 was Community. Stephen set an open ended task for course participants to, as a community ( I believe this was meant in a loose way), come up with and reach consensus on a task, the completion of which denotes being a member of the community.
As a community, create an assignment the completion of which denotes being a member of the community. For the purposes of this task, there can only be one community. For each participant, your being a member of the community completes the task.Source
Further to this, Stephen added his own nice decentralised twist
This week’s task is deliberately open-ended. It requires the formation of a community, but only one community, with tangible evidence of consensus. How to do this? How to even get started? That’s the challenge…Source
Some people may ask, “What’s the point?” Well, as we discussed in this week’s conversation (also in this newsletter) it’s a challenge to create consensus without deferring to an authority – a trusted source, if you will. In a course like this, that’s usually the instructor. But not this time. This is – on a small scale – the same problem we have on a larger scale. How do we create consensus with no common ground?
This task is challenging on several fronts. Can a community be created at all? What if there are competing communities? How many participants can the community actually encompass? How do people join at all? The conditions for succeeding in this assignment are very simple – be a member of that community. But the manner in which this is to be accomplished is not clear at all.
Out of this challenge sprung some proposals in the form of blog posts on participants sites. I was delighted to see this as I had been puzzling for a short while on how we as a group of participants would manage to get started with trying to reach a consensus without a ‘central’ node that we all had access to – the actual MOOC itself probably being the only node I could think of, and none of the participants outside of Stephen can edit that directly. Anyone who completed the earlier task of subscribing to the course feed list through their RSS aggregator of choice would have been able to see the proposal posts for this task appear there. The first proposal I encountered on my RSS was from Roland
I suggest we all post about our experiences in this course. It would be a short or long piece about the content, the way it’s being organized, the way the learners did or did not interact with each other or how we reacted in blog posts and on social media.Source
Such a post seems like a natural thing to do, there are no good or bad posts, yet it would affirm our being together in this thing – #el30.
I really liked the idea of posting about our course experiences to date and commented on Roland’s post agreeing with his proposal as tangible evidence of trying to arrive at group consensus. I had seen that other participants had also expressed their agreement in the comments section of the post.
With that proposal in mind I will catalogue a brief synopsis of my experiences to date on the E-Learning 3.0 journey.
My experiences of this course
Researching, reading and writing takes a substantial time for me. I find it difficult. Derek Sivers sums me up perfectly when he writes
I’m a very slow thinker.
When a friend says something interesting to me, I usually don’t have a reaction until much later.
When someone asks me a deep question, I say, “Hmm. I don’t know.” The next morning, I have an answer.
I’m a disappointing person to try to debate or attack. I just have nothing to say in the moment, except maybe, “Good point.” Then a few days later, after thinking about it a lot, I have a response.
I could also add the word ‘reader’ to that.
In truth, this is the first cMOOC I have ‘registered for’ and participated in (as best I could at least; I have a lot of learning and practice to do to improve my overall participation online). I must say that I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It has been a challenge but a wholly worthwhile one. The content and conversation has been of a very high-quality.
I don’t think I would consider participation on #EL30 as the formation of a ‘community’. Despite that, in a way, I still feel some sort of connection to the group. A shared journey or the likes. Here I will defer to more knowledgeable participants who provide useful descriptions for what they believe it to be:
At most, I would compare it to the residence or municipality community which is defined by something like a common zip code (here, by using the hashcode el30), and whose residents have, in a certain limited sense, a common ‘fate‘ (again limited, to the 9 weeks).Matthias Melcher (x28)
An affinity space is a place – virtual or physical – where informal learning takes place. According to James Paul Gee, affinity spaces are locations where groups of people are drawn together because of a shared, strong interest or engagement in a common activity.Kevin Hodgson (dogtrax)
Much of the course content is still in flux in my mind. I often find myself mulling over it to see if I have understood it well or considering where it might be applied in my practice. I have found all of the topics to date very interesting, even though I have admittedly grasped some of them far better than others. I really enjoy both the technical and academic focus that comprises each topic.
Some of it sits quite easily with the work I am doing in higher education. More of it is a little like trying to stand still on shifting tectonic plates.
I agree with the original intent and premise that
the idea of the Internet – distributed, social, networked – influences the structure of education, teaching, and learning.Source
and subscribe to this in an ideological sense, however, the many ways that this might manifest in higher education remains to be seen. I suppose from being a reader and great admirer of Audrey Watters extensive work, I am a bit skeptical of anything that attempts to predict future trends of educational technology and of what drives that within higher education. Saying that, this experience has been different.
I love how Stephen used his own open source software (gRSShopper) to build the MOOC on, how he emphasised free use of an RSS feed aggregator to keep track of each participants blog posts on, and of how he highlights the importance of decentralisation versus centralisation of power and influence. This is all incredible and something I feel I also buy into.
I learned a huge amount from reading Stephen’s commentaries, the links provided to resources, and from all participants blog posts via my RSS aggregator.
As someone who actually created this website in order to be able to communicate and interact on #EL30, the major difficulty for me has lay in trying to keep apace with regular tasks and with writing something coherent.
Design of the course and Interaction
As someone who works in learning experience/instructional design of online and blended programmes for postgraduate and professional education, I really enjoyed the explorative and reflective nature of the course. It was very clearly structured, module by module. I loved the synopsis for each topic and the links to further resources to aid expand upon thoughts, if you so wished to. From the moment I saw the course, I felt it was very intuitive. I thought the predominantly asynchronous nature of it suited very well. It allowed me time to
- read about, reflect on and grasp complex concepts,
- view weekly online video conversations between Stephen and guests in my own time,
- review resources sourced by Stephen, other participants and myself,
- keep an eye on the backchannel social media streams – Twitter and Mastodon,
- generate my own ideas to write blog posts about them,
- read and comment on fellow participants blog posts,
- complete tasks and build competencies along the way.
Stephen certainly walks the talk of Open Educational Practices (OEP) with #EL30. Each week we are provided with a link to view the working summary article for that weeks topic. Not alone are we provided with just a link to view, we are always actively encouraged by Stephen to contribute to the document if we feel that we can – to post comments, suggestions, further resources. This is the first time I have encountered this and to be honest I don’t feel knowledgeable enough to contribute, even though I know it is possible. I tend to take a sneak peek at the end of topic article before it comes out on the newsletter as it is always extremely informative and detailed.
I see that some people live out a portion of their lives on social media. I am not one of those people. For some reason I find I have somewhat of a natural inclination to not post on social media platforms, even though I do have Twitter and Mastodon accounts. It’s not that I think sharing is a bad thing, I just often find myself self-questioning myself before making a post – “Is this really going to be valuable to somebody” or “will it make a difference if I post this or not”? Very nihilist of me! I’m probably a little bit independent and happy to be – engaging on social media doesn’t captivate me.
Some people participating on #EL30 are far more accomplished and prolific bloggers, writers, educators and names in their respective fields. It has been a pleasure and privilege to communicate and interact on some level with each of them.
A key take away for me from the experience to date is that I need to make more time to get my thoughts out and down – outside of participating on a MOOC – and to become more proactive about posting rather than reactive to what others are writing.
I’m falling a little bit behind on #EL30 at the moment, hoping to put some time aside to catch up properly in the coming weeks.
For the ‘Resources’ module of the course, Stephen set the following task for us:
Create a free account on a Badge service (several are listed in the resources for this module). Then:
– create a badge
– award it to yourself
– use a blog post on your blog as the ‘evidence’ for awarding yourself the badge
– place the badge on the blog post.
To assist you in this, you can see this blog post where I did all four steps with Badgr. (I also tried to work with the API, with much less success).Source
I had previously created an account on Openbadges.me so I decided to use that badge service for this task. I’ve seen a couple of posts already from #EL30 participants that demonstrate how they created and issued their badges using Badgr, so this post will provide my experience doing it on a different badge service for comparison/anyone that’s interested.
There were 4 main tasks for me to complete on Openbadges.me in order to be able to successfully create and issue my badge on this blog post:
- Setting myself up as a badge issuer
- Creating or uploading a graphic to represent my badge
- Creating and Publishing my badge for issue
- Issuing my badge to a recipient (me! – but I can issue it to you too, read on ’til the end if you’re interested in adding this badge to your collection)
1. Setting up as a badge issuer
After logging into Openbadges you are presented with a dashboard area with a navigation menu to the left hand side. The main content area of the dashboard displays tiled flashcard-like blocks that each explain different things that Openbadges can be used for. The navigation menu on the left allows us to go to the areas of the site which will allow us to create and issue badges, so that’s where I begin.
Following Stephen’s useful blog post based on his experiences using Badgr, another badge service, I set about the first task – Setting up as a badge issuer. I selected the Preparing badges menu item and the Badge issuers sub-item. In the main content area I was presented with a pink button in the upper right-hand corner to “+ Create issuer”, as I hadn’t created issuers before. I clicked the button and followed the onscreen instruction to set myself up as a badge issuer, giving myself the permission to issue badges that I create.
2. Creating or uploading a graphic to represent the badge
As I didn’t have a pre-made graphic to use for my badge I decided to create one using the Openbadges Graphics library, which was accessible as a sub-menu item from the Preparing badges menu item.
Similarly, after selecting this sub-menu item I was presented with a pink button in the upper right-hand corner of main content area of the screen that prompted me to “+ Create graphic”.
The user interface was intuitive and allowed me to create and adapt a graphic of my own beneath 7 simple headings:
- Inner shapes
- Curved text
For my badge I used 3 of those headings – Shapes, Curved text and Icon. Once I was happy with the look of my graphic I saved it and was then able to preview it. The next step was to create the framework for the badge including the awarding criteria for someone looking to be awarded it.
3. Creating and Publishing the badge
It’s important to recognise that the graphic is only one component of the badge. Often, people can think that a badge is simply a .jpg or .png image, but it’s the metadata that we don’t always see that’s ‘baked into’ the badge which is the most valuable aspect of it. This includes the criteria in order to be awarded the badge, any badge attributes (i.e. a badge awarded for completing 3 hours of CPD), the date of receipt, the date of expiry (if the badge needs to be renewed) the issuer details and the unique badge ID:
I added the relevant details, criteria and attributes to my badge and also selected the graphic that I had created to visually depict it. I was satisfied with my badge so I clicked the grey ‘Publish’ button in the upper right-hand corner of the screen to finalise my badge creation.
Importantly, a badge can only be published if it contains valid name, description, issuer, criteria and graphic and once you publish the badge you cannot go back and edit it easily unless you unpublish (withdraw) it firstly which remove all the details, criteria and attributes you have added to it. This is important to bear in mind so if you are not sure about your badge I would advise using the pink ‘Save Draft’ button before making the decision to finally publish.
4. Issuing the badge to a recipient
With the badge created the last step was to issue it to a recipient, in this case, myself. I clicked the Issuing badges menu item and the Manual entry sub-menu option. There were other options available to issue it to groups, via API or through rules-based issuing, but manual was the easiest option initially when I knew I was only issuing it to one person.
The badge I had created appeared here and once I moused-over it I was given the option to ‘Issue badge’ via email. I clicked that option and simply entered my own email address in the space provided, clicked ‘Add recipient’ and finally ‘Issue badge’. I immediately received an email from Openbadges.me prompting me to click a link to download my badge.
And here is what all the fuss was about!
For those of you who may be interested, Openbadges.me also provides reporting functionality to keep track of who has been issued the badge and when it was issued, which is accessible from the main navigation menu beneath Reporting:
Want to be a recipient of my badge?
Just leave a comment on this post with
- a link to your own badge (as evidence that you’ve completed Stephen’s task)
- the email address you’d prefer me to send along your badge to
and I’ll email you a link to download it.
“Open Educational Resources – OER Rocket Badge with Moon 360×360 PNG” by Eugene Open Educational Resources is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
This week, Stephen tasked us with creating a Content-Addressed Resource on the distributed web or Dweb.
Create a resource (for example, a web page) using IPFS, Beaker Browser, Fritter, or any other distributed web application (see some of the examples here). Provide a link to the resource using any method you wish.Source
To help prepare for this task, watch the video ‘From Repositories to the Distributed Web‘ as well as these videos on IPFS and Beaker: installing IPFS, making a website with IPFS, installing Beaker.
The final results
- Click to view my IPFS site.
- Click to view my .dat site using Beaker browser (or another .dat enabled browser). I probably need to consider hosting it on hashbase.io in order to keep it available when I’m not online.
Dweb – The letter D in the popular shortened version stands for either decentralised or distributed. Here’s a visual depiction:
The conceptual framework behind the creation of a decentralised or distributed internet is an attempt to replace, improve upon, or at least run parrallel to, the current centralised web (based on the web 2.0 premise). A feature of this current web is siloed platform specific engagement.
In part, this shift in thinking has transpired as a strong reaction to the centralisation of control and power in the hands of a few giant internet and tech companies. A decentralised, distributed web would, in theory, more evenly spread the balance of power, control, etc. across a network of much more people, in the hope of removing the reliance on using web 2.0 platforms to communicate with one another, thus diluting their influence.
Further, the dweb has been brought about by the need to create an immutable way to preserve the largest open and accessible collection of human knowledge ever created.
Here’s how I did it
Following Stephen’s video’s (linked to above) was very straightforward. They are very clear and thorough. The only real hurdle I had to overcome was that I was performing the operation on my Mac laptop rather than on a Windows device. All in all, performing the operations was much the same.
Downloading and extracting IPFS
The first task I set about was downloading and installing the go-ipfs distribution implementation of the Inter-Planetary File System (IPFS).
I unzipped/extracted the go-ipfs download into my home directory (davidmoloney$ in my case). It isn’t as easy as double-clicking on the .exe file in the directory and following an installation wizard I’m afraid! You are the installation wizard!
I opened up the terminal application on my Mac to begin the process of installation. First things first, I changed directory into the new go-ipfs one which, if you remember, I had saved to my home directory.
In Stephen’s video, in order to list the subdirectories within the go-ipfs directory on his Windows device, he types:
into the Microsoft Powershell. On the Mac terminal the equivalent command is
You could also type
if you were looking for some further detail.
It’s the “ipfs” file listed on the right hand side of the “ls” screenshot above that I am initially interested in. I want to initialise this file in order to establish my IPFS node. To do this this I type
Initialising the ipfs file generates a hashed peer identity for my IPFS node on the distributed web. It also creates a link for me to progress to the next step and open the Readme file.
I copied the hashed value that had been generated in the terminal (by highlighting it and using Command+C) in order to open the Readme file, also ensuring to copy the
code that comes immediately before the hashed string. Stephen notes the importance of this in his video. Without the “cat” prefix piece the command will not run properly.
I typed and pasted the following command into the terminal to open the Readme file. You will replace the *ABCD* section in the code below with the hashed public key that is generated for you (although I think it’ll probably be the same anyway – ending in “Vv”).
../go-ipfs/ipfs cat /ipfs/*ABCD*/readme
The Readme.md file should open for you within the terminal.
Starting the daemon service
Once initialised it is important to get the IPFS service up and running by starting the daemon service
I love how Stephen pronounces daemon in his video – demon! Very Irish!
The IPFS Companion Add-on for Firefox
Ordinarily, it seems that by then browsing to the web address produced after running the daemon service (http://127.0.0.1/tcp/8080) I should be able to access IPFS via my browser. However, without the IPFS Companion add-on, I couldn’t get to that point using Firefox.
Once the IPFS Companion add-on is installed you can click the small icon in the browser bar and then select the Open Web UI option to view a dashboard interface.
Creating and hosting my simple website on IPFS
I followed Stephen’s guidance in his video and used Gio d’Amelio’s quick tutorial to get my simple website set up and hosted on IPFS.
Using the Sublime Text 3 text editor for code, I copied and pasted the sample text provided in the quick tutorial and created basic index.html and style.css files. I saved the files in a subdirectory that I similarly named “ipfssite”, following Stephen’s lead.
Adding my site to IPFS using the terminal
I opened a new terminal window and changed directory into the go-ipfs directory within my home directory again
From here, I ran the following command to add the .html and .css files within my ipfssite subdirectory to my IPFS node.
./ipfs add -r ipfssite
Doing this produces hashed values for all of the files and also the entire site. The very last hash value before the command completes is the hash value to use to browse to your IPFS site.
Finally, I decided to install the beaker browser and establish a new .dat website also. This post is already a little unwieldy so I won’t detail how that went, but it was all pretty straight forward. Ultimately, I simply followed along with Stephen’s video instruction which was excellent.
The world changes. Some people don’t.Source
You learned things that were true back then, but now they’re false.
You got successful doing things one way, but now that way is moot.
You still consider yourself an expert, but that expertise has expired.
You dug so deep into something that you lost perspective, and didn’t realize the landscape had changed.
Sometimes it’s just a change in situation. The strategy that got you to where you are is different from the strategy that will get you to where you want to be next.
In #EL30 this week the focus was Identity.
This post contains more questions than answers, more randomly assorted out-loud thoughts than anything else. I’m prepared to be ‘not quite there’ in my interpretations of much of this. It’s all a work in progress, ironically.
Identity is a deep and complex topic and one that could be discussed in a variety of different ways. It is both a personal (internal) and social (external) construct. It isn’t solely what we think of or communicate about ourselves, our self-image, but what others think of and communicate about us also. Consideration of identity from a psychological perspective through the work of Carl Rogers can incorporate both aspirational and fantasy elements. We see this more often nowadays with people on social media portraying a projected sense of self or a more ideal version of themselves through their publicly broadcasted social media, and other people providing their impressions about that through liking, sharing, following, friending, etc.
For me, identity is more a perpetual interplay of elements within different contexts rather than a finished product; it’s also more the plural than the singular. Our self-concepts about our identity are likely to change as the world around us changes and our role changes within it. Identity is never complete, it is ever in-process. Who we are and what we do is multi faceted, changeable, and imperfect. And my understanding of it is much the same.
The essence of identity might refer to the type of person we are recognised as being, both internally and externally, at a certain point in time. The term being is inclusive of the type of person we were in the past and the one we might become in the future also.
Over on Jenny Mackness’ blog, she wrote the following piece,
quoting renowned social learning theorist, Etienne Wenger, which really resonated with me.
It is not just what we say about ourselves or what others say about us. It is not about self-image, but rather a way of being in the world – the way we live day by day – He [Etienne] expands on this on p.151 of his book, writing:
Blog Source and Book Source
An identity, then, is a layering of events of participation and reification by which our experience and its social interpretation inform each other. As we encounter our effects on the world and develop our relations with others, these layers build upon each other to produce our identity as a very complex interweaving of participative experience and reificative projections. Bringing the two together through the negotiation of meaning, we construct who we are. In the same way that meaning exists in its negotiation, identity exists – not as an object in and of itself – but in the constant work of negotiating the self. It is in this cascading interplay of participation and reification that our experience of life becomes one of identity, and indeed of human existence and consciousness. (p.151)
Conversation with Maha Bali
In this week’s conversation, Stephen explored the topic further with Maha Bali. I was already aware of some of Maha’s work through the work of Dr Catherine Cronin. Stephen and Maha spoke about the composition of identity, whether elements are internal or external, how our activities and our identity relate, and about a number of Maha’s activities, including Virtually Connecting and the ongoing Equity Unbound course.
Maha described identity in a blog post she wrote prior to the conversation as evolving, dynamic, and contextual. In it, Maha spoke about recognition of who and what we are as a fluid concept dependant upon a range of factors – our perception of self, others perceptions, comparative perspectives, the particular time in our life that it is, etc. Personal identity is something that is constantly negotiated. As Maha Bali said in that blog post, her Virtually Connecting co-creation felt like an extension of herself. What she helped to create felt like a part of who she was. The conversation finished on a very interesting note with both agreeing that identity was qualitatively different than the sum of its parts.
Another key takeaway from the conversation was the discussion about choice. We choose to actively take up an identity or choose to identify with something, like being ‘resilient’, and choose not to identify with other things, like being ‘a quitter’. Each of us are selective with knowing what we are, and knowing what we are not.
“Identity requires some element of choice.”
“Identity is marked by similarity, that is of the people like us, and by difference, of those who are not.”Source
Identity and digital identity are not one and the same. Someone without access to the internet still has an identity. In a presentation I’ve given previously entitled ‘Who Am I Online?’, I portrayed digital identity (in particular) using the concept of an identity box. Inside the box is what you think of yourself, your perceptions of all that you identify with – the personal. The outside of the box represents external thoughts about your identity, what you are socially seen to identify with or the parts of your identity that you may not have as much control over shaping, such as the digital footprint created about you from the traces of data you leave behind yourself online by ‘forces beyond our control’.
“If identity provides us with the means of answering the question ‘who am I?’ it might appear to be about personality; the sort of person I am. That is only part of the story. Identity is different from personality in important respects. … an identity suggests some active engagement on our part. We choose to identify with a particular identity or group. … [the] importance of structures, the forces beyond our control which shape our identities, and agency, the degree of control which we ourselves can exert over who we are.Source
I was attempting to get people to comprehend identity as something that we have control over certain elements of, but our agency with regard to complete control over it is limited.
As part of the session I delivered, I used the Lightbeam plugin for Firefox, linked to below. I explained to the audience that I was starting the plugin at the beginning and that over the course of my 40 minute presentation my browsing behaviour would be captured by the plugin. At the end of the session I displayed the graph visualisation and displayed the kind of identity profile that was being built about me behind the scenes while I had been giving the session. The visualisation listed the sites that I browsed to during the session and also listed the trackers that had been following me from site to site across the web as I browsed, generating an identity profile of me.
Further reading and resources
To view an insightful perspective into the future of identity and online authentication, this video from Stephen Downes explains the concepts of public and private key cryptography and introduces Yubi keys.
At this link, Bonnie Stewart speaks about Digital Identities: Six Key Selves of Networked Publics.
Here are some further resources to inform yourself about the digital traces we all leave behind in online environments and how to begin to counteract:
- Panopticlick by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) – is your browser safe against tracking?
- Me and My Shadow – what stories do your digital shadows tell about you?
- Lightbeam plugin for Firefox browser – creates an interactive graph visualisation of trackers.
- TinEye Reverse Image Search – reveal which other sites may have posted an image of you.
- DuckDuckGo – a privacy conscious search engine.
- Privacy Badger browser plugin – protect your browser from trackers.
- Bill Hess from PixelPrivacy.com got in touch with me to share an in-depth guide to browser fingerprinting which provides more context about why you’d want to use a tool such as Panopticlick by the EFF.
For #EL30 this week, the topic of Graph is explored. This blog post will not address our task for this week but will instead capture some of what I’ve been considering about the topic and some excellent resources I’ve found that have helped to shape my thoughts.
The graph (think network, community, ecosystem of connections) is seen as being an important conceptual framework for the movement from web2 to web3. In essence, I conceptualise this movement as the gradual removal of current platform middlemen operating particular business models, with the replacement of that with more direct communication and interaction between one another over the internet.
Graph constructs aid with depicting distributed networked systems. Network science helps us to understand the ways in which these systems operate.
Conversation with Ben Werdmüller
The concept of graph was asserted by Stephen at the outset of the week:
The graph is the conceptual basis for web3 networks. This concept will be familiar to those who have studied connectivism, as the idea of connectivism is that knowledge consists of the relations between nodes in a network – in other words, that knowledge is a graph (and not, say, a sequence of facts and instructions).Source
Graphs, and especially dynamic graphs, have special properties, the results of which can be found in social network theory, in modern artificial intelligence, and in economic and political theory.
Ben and Stephen delved deeper into this concept during their online conversation and touched upon a possible future that can be derived from the movement to web3.
Stephen described the common traits of a number of network structures and systems.
Some common networks:Source
– A social network (or social graph) which is made up of people (and sometimes bots pretending to be people) connected by relations of ‘friending’ or ‘following’ and interacting by means of ‘texting’ or ‘messaging’.
– A neural network, which is made up of neurons (or, in computers, artificial neurons), connected by means of axons or connections, interacting by means of ‘pings’ or ‘signals’
– A financial network, which is made up of accounts, which have ‘balances’ of various sizes, and which are connected through contracts and interact through transactions
– A semantical network (such as the Semantic Web), which is a collection of resources connected through an ontology and which interact through logical relations with each other.
In all of these, the core idea is the same. We have a set of entities (sometimes called nodes or vertices) that are in some way connected to each other (by means of links or edges or transactions or whatever you want to call the linkage and the interaction through the linkage).
Graphs help us to recognise the relationship between the actors and how they interact with each other within the environment. It isn’t necessarily the individual objects that we should focus on when conceptualising graphs, it’s the things that anchor the objects together that prove interesting, the connections.
It’s difficult for a graph to tell us everything about a networked system, they can be a very effective visual framework to help us recognise the constituent components of the network and how they all operate, however, it further allows us to begin to recognise elements that cannot be seen with our eyes – the invisible, underlying, subtle and nuanced contacts, properties, connections and interactions – the currents that flow within the graph structure that shape it, it’s electromagnetic force, for want of a better term. The graph itself depicts the physical format of a network but it is what the graph allows us to visibly and invisibly perceive in greater depth is what makes it important.
In connectivism we have explored the idea of thinking of knowledge as a graph, and of learning as the growth and manipulation of a graph. It helps learners understand that each idea connects to another, and it’s not the individual idea that’s important, but rather how the entire graph grows and develops.Source
An example of a directional graph might be one that looks at the reporting relationships in a hierarchically structured institution or organisation. At the top of the hierarchical structure might sit the CEO or President, beneath that the layer of Vice Presidents, Chief Operational Officers, Chief Finance Officers etc., beneath that layer might sit the directors of divisions or departments, beneath that the managers and coordinators layer and then the employees working within teams. The reporting relationships would commonly flow upward in one direction from the base of the hierarchy, layer by layer, towards the top.
A real life example of a static bidirectional graph might be a return journey flight path. For a flight where a stopover is required before arriving at the desired destination, you would depart from your origin airport, travel via your waypoint stopover, and arrive at your destination destination – let’s say Dublin (origin) to Copenhagen (destination) via Oslo (waypoint). The return journey demonstrates this in reverse.
Examples of dynamic graphs that may have either directional or bidirectional relations between vertices would be the internet, social networks and perhaps a less obvious example might be historical timelines (directional, as time advances).
The use of dynamic living graphs appear across many of the fields of science, anthropology, psychology, etc. and are particularly common within computer science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. In computer science we can perceive graphs as Merkle Trees and Directed Acyclic Graph’s (DAGs), used in GitHub software version control.
Some very helpful resources
Coming off the back of last weeks conversation with Tim Hirst, where we touched upon Jupyter Notebooks as a way of actively and dynamically learning and practicing, I thought I’d explore the web for an interactive dynamic simulation of Graph Theory in order to learn a little more about it. I came across a very useful Graph Theory resource created by Avinash Pandey on Github that models 3D graph structures.
In my online search to better understand this topic I came across another great resource by Nick Case that helped me to think in terms of graphs and the science of networked systems. The resource is an interactive online game called Crowds. In it, Case attempts to deconstruct theories of network science to use as a plausible explanation for the phenomena we know as The Madness of Crowds/The Wisdom of Crowds.
There were a number of key takeaways from this resource for me. Concepts about complex connections were introduced wherein the greater exposure someone has to an idea amongst their social networks, the greater the chance that they will be influenced by it. Threshold factors might also influence whether an idea spreads beyond certain nodes in a network.
The resource further looks at the idea of contagion, explores consensus and concludes by examining the importance of such concepts as bonding within networks, bridging between networks, and the immutable influence of Small World Networks.
One of the sources cited in Case’s resource is a book co-authored by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler called Connected, which analyses the importance and value of connection, of network, of community and the influence each of us can have on it, and it can have on each of us. Here are links to the book and a thought-provoking TED talk on YouTube (18 mins), which gives an insight into the impact of our social networks. From their research they coined the ‘three degrees of influence’ theory, essentially arguing that, even though the influence dissipates, it may be possible for our actions, behaviours, etc. to have consequences and influence up three degrees of separation away from us (our friends’, friends’, friends). This theory is contentious.
In the TED talk, Christakis discusses common objects – a pencil and a diamond – both made from carbon. But the carbon atoms in each are connected and arranged in different ways. The lead in a pencil is soft/breakable and dark, diamonds are hard and clear. Both items have the same underlying properties, however, they are connected in different ways and this effects what they become.
According to Christakis, those properties (soft, dark, hard, clear)
“do not reside in the carbon atoms; they reside in the interconnections between the carbon atoms, or at least arise because of the interconnections between the carbon atoms.”Source – timestamp 15.09
“So, similarly, the pattern of connections among people confers upon the groups of people different properties. It is the ties between people that makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. And so it is not just what’s happening to these people — whether they’re losing weight or gaining weight, or becoming rich or becoming poor, or becoming happy or not becoming happy — that affects us; it’s also the actual architecture of the ties around us. Our experience of the world depends on the actual structure of the networks in which we’re residing and on all the kinds of things that ripple and flow through the network.”Source