Category Archives: Reflection

Reflection: Preparing for the Webinar

Webinar Picture

Photo Credit: mrsdkrebs from Flickr

I finally delivered my webinar entitled  “Adding more ‘authentic dimension’ in higher education using social media the blog” on the last slotted date on March 26 for webinar presentations by the students in the Digital Literacy course.  This was my first webinar and my first attempt to use Adobe Connect.  When it was the time to start the webinar, I realized that I had no idea how to play each animation effect on my slides.  I noted earlier the link structure of my slides on the right-hand side of the slid display.  A big panic!  I had to ask the instructor and fellow students for help even recording was already in progress.  During the webinar, I also felt somewhat disconnected from my audience.  A day later,  I realized that I completely forgot to share the results of the poll I took from the audience during the webinar.  Sigh!  The instructor specifically reminded me not to forget to click the “display” option.  Talking about entirely a new environment.  The instructor gently reminded me after the webinar that this was all part of the learning process.  OK, yes, that seemed more comforting.  I have to have the first time and it’s all about learning.

http://goo.gl/O1BcRM CC

http://goo.gl/O1BcRM CC

Despite some glitches I encountered and a not-so-good delivery during the webinar, I prepared for this webinar for many hours.  The idea I set out for my webinar seemed to be a very obvious choice at the time.  As I prepared for the project, it became a daunting task!  Since this is a conceptual piece, I had to clarify what I meant by “authentic learning” and how it fit into the context of higher education.  I also wanted to bring in the idea of the pedagogical shift that comes with the use of emerging technologies:  focusing more on learning processes rather than teaching.  I also needed to connect these ideas to my professional experience of being an academic, liaison librarian at a university.  As I reflect back on the preparatory process, what I needed is an additional level of meta-cognition.  There is always a danger of getting too caught up in one’s own thinking process and forget about the actual effects of the presentation to the audience.

The most difficult webinar section to develop was the section for discussing theblog as a potential social media platform to integrate into university courses.   Talking about something that I don’t have any experience of was definitely my weakness.    But I was very lucky to come across a ProfHacker post, “A Better Blog Assignment,” by Mark Sample (July 3, 2012).  A total of 45 comments was attached to his post and generated an interesting discussion about the integration of blogs into university courses.  This provided a wealth of information for my webinar project.  I am afraid, however, that I did not deliver this section of the webinar well.  On the other hand, working on the topic gave me the opportunity to learn about it and it was all positive in that regard.  In the end, because of this research, I was able to put together a join proposal towards the TLT Grants Program, an internal grants program at my university, with a teaching faculty colleague of mine.

Reflection: Designing This E-Portfolio

My E-Portfolio Theme

WordPress Coraline Theme
My E-Portfolio Theme

Main Task

The most time-consuming aspect of putting together this e-portfolio was definitely writing the materials and I in fact had to leave my opinion piece as the last piece to work on.  I needed the time to do some thinking. Indeed, writing and developing the e-portfolio content required a lot of thought.  Going over the guidelines of the assignment and also the rubrics really helped me keep working at it.  It helped me to make sure that each contribution in the e-portfolio is well connected to the theme.  I also realized at some point that I didn’t specify who would be the audience of my e-portfolio.  This was a very important piece.  Without a clear audience in mind, everything becomes blurry, out of focus.  In the end, I had to articulate my audience to be any teaching faculty, librarians, learning specialists, instructional designers, or technologists who can contribute to and can make important impacts on student learning in higher education.

How to disseminate my e-portfolio was one of the last things I worked on.  It would be very convenient to attach my e-portfolio url, say on my business card, or my signature line for e-mail messages.  I also chose to use my Mendeley profile.  Initially, the obvious field assigned by Mendeley for my e-portfolio entry to be included is Bio section.  Unfortunately, it is a text box and I could not make any hyperlink to the e-portfolio site.  I decided to include my e-portfolio under Publications so that any visitors can click it to the site.  In addition to Mendeley, I also looked into ResearchGate.  Unfortunately, there was no easy way to include the hyperlink for my e-portfolio in the profile database at this network site for academic researchers.

 

WorldPress Twenty Ten Theme

WordPress Twenty Ten Theme

Design Framework

I first looked into a couple of WorldPress themes with “clean design” for my e-portfolio, such as Twenty Ten, Twenty Eleven, and Twenty Twelve. A clean and simple design works best for an e-portfolio.  I selected the Coraline Theme.  I initially made it into one column format, but it accentuated my texts too much.   In the end, I put back the sidebar on the right and eliminated some widgets such as a widget for comments or metadata, to make the blog design into a stand-alone e-portfolio.

 

WordPress Twenty Eleven Theme

WordPress Twenty Eleven Theme

Images

We need to have interesting images in any web pages.  Locating usable images that were not copyrighted or in public domain proved to be a time-consuming process. I could easily search Google Images with keywords and could retrieve many images, but many of them were either copyrighted or the copyright status not certain.  I eventually relied mainly on the Creative Commons Images Search (you can search 13 different resources covering images, music, and media), Open Clip Art Library, and Public Domain Clip Art to locate potential images for this project.   I initially went through the frustration of dealing with the fee-based image library sites that market their sites emphasizing on the availability of free, public domain images.  They in fact let you search free images only for the first couple of times.  But when you are convinced that this site is helpful, they start mainly pushing fee-based images.  Very tricky.

 

WordPress Twenty Twelve Theme

WordPress Twenty Twelve Theme

 FINAL REFLECTION:

Looking back when I started this e-portfolio project, I had a vague idea of what it entails.  Establishing a blog site and establishing the main menu helped me get started with the project.   It would be accurate to say that the objective of my portfolio probably became more realistic when I focused on the audience.  Even after the identification of the audience, I still had to write each section by trial and error, drafting and editing, and finally putting all together ensuring that each contributes as a part of the e-portfolio.

My topic, how higher education is adapting to the new learning opportunities presented by the emerging technologies and accompanying social changes, by its nature has a moving target.  My webinar theme was authentic learning in higher education.  I struggle for a while to identify clearly what my opinion piece would be for the e-portfolio.  I brainstormed similar concepts to authentic learning.  There are, “student-centered learning” and “self-directed learning.”  The overlapping characteristics of these similar concepts lead to the concept of “life-long learning” or “learning-to-learn skills.”  I understood all these different concepts  to be the new labels or keywords helping us identify the new ways to organize learning environments.  I eventually chose to write about the ideal type for the 21st century learning environments and learners as my opinion piece.  This helps us visualize how learning takes place in the new learning environments that sharply contrast what we have become accustomed to in higher education.  The ideal type presented by Barr and Taggs, and John Seely Brown help us set in the new direction.  In the end, my opinion piece helped to tie various pieces I prepared for the e-portfolio.

 

 

Personal Reflecton: Attending Blended Learning Task Force Focus Group Session

On March 27, 2013, I attended one of the faculty focus groups arranged by the Blended Learning Task Force of the University of Manitoba that was recently struck by the Vice Provost (Academics).  Eight other faculty members who attended the focus group beside myself were two instructional designers from Extended Education and the rest consists of one teaching faculty member from each of the Faculty of Education, Social Work, Nursing, the Business School, and the Department of Computer Science, and Geography.  All the participants were referred beforehand to the background report prepared by the Task Force, which consists of a long list of SWOT analysis of blended learning.  We were reminded by the Vice Provost at the beginning of the focus group that they are neither for or against blended learning.  So they want to gather different opinions and views about blended learning in order to come up with a university-wide plan or strategy.  I have to admit that I was somewhat disappointed in this armed-length approach to blended learning at the University.  But we need to begin somewhere.   I still could not help and wonder what if the Task Force was led by a passionate advocate for supporting learning with the use of new technologies.  It  clearly would have given us a different starting point for our discussion.

During the task force group gathering, as we became more familier with each other’s view and experience of blended learning, we began to share the same view:  The University needs its commitment and resources in technical, pedagogical, and research & development supports around blended learning.  As soon as we thought we warmed up, it soon came to the end of 90 minutes, the time allocated for the focus group.  I also agreed with one professor who expressed his view that the planning for blended learning should come from the bottom rather than the top.  All the experimentations and teaching and learning experiences are happening on the ground and adopting the bottom-up approach makes a lot of sense.  As the Faculty of Education professor pointed out just before he left, the group’s discussion inevitably ended up focusing mainly on “teaching” aspects of blended learning.   We were nowhere near “learning” effects or what students think of blended learning.  Let’s trust that the students who will be recruited in their focus group get their voices heard.