Creative Writing

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    Very late in this – I suppose that is the beauty of online / asynchronous …

    What I like about this activity is that it draws together much of the discussion from week 0 & the some of the main points of this week’s webinar in that it asks us to consider the learning outcomes and activities before we even consider the technologies that may facilitate the change in learning. Having said that (and posted about SAMR myself last week), there is an element of chicken and egg in that if we don’t have a basic (& fairly broad) awareness & understanding of new technologies then we may not necessarily know which are best to put the changes I would like to make to my own teaching into practice.

    Twitter & PLNs etc can help with this, as can learning technologists & colleagues where I work (UK FE College) and although the learning should always lead the technology, those screen prints of (for example) Bloom’s Taxonomy mapped to iPad apps (‘padagogy’ if you will – here we have an example that now considers SAMR too: ) – so those screen prints on Twitter & links tend to send me off to “play” with the app first & then consider the learning opportunities second.

    The upshot however is that lately when I have wanted to change a learning outcome or activity & move my learners (generally) more towards around 8 o’clock on the ‘Dimensions Quadrant’ then the ground work practising & experimenting in advance with the technology pays off and I have an ever-expanding array of technology awareness to support.

    The learning activity I am thinking of is a creative writing activity. Learners need to plan, draft, write & revise a piece of creative writing & they need to both give & receive feedback & further revise their writing in the light of feedback. The learning is enjoyable & once students overcome some initial shyness, they work well in pairs & threes critiquing their work. So this is quite a good exploration of our quadrant as at times learners explore both social and individual situations and equally at times are directed & other times fairly autonomous.

    Reflecting on this part of their course, it is the social, collaborative side to things that I think could be developed differently (enhanced). As things stand in the collaborative activities we were limited by simple logistics – it seemed unwieldy to be printing large numbers of these stories for group work (not to mention costly & not very environmentally friendly paper-wise). From a more practical learning perspective, learners did not want to carry around multiple copies of their work with a variety of annotations. I am now cheating a little as I have implemented the next step already, but as I am now more strategic & less hands on teaching & learning I’m having to go back in time a bit.

    We removed paper copies completely. Learners copied and pasted their work into a Moodle forum & I provided them with a brief list of feedback prompts which encouraged them to comment, say something positive and ask a question. After they had commented on three colleagues, they returned to their own work, answers the questions & then commented on three more colleagues. They then checked the answers to the questions they had been asking & suddenly we had multiple chats taking place simultaneously. We did need to begin in the classroom using on–site computers and I don’t think this group would have instinctively been as productive had I set it up like ocTEL, but the initial work within the classroom paid off as learners did continue the only discussions outside the classroom. There were some absent learners on the day and they were able to collaborate & make good progress despite the fact that they were not physically in class on the day.

    Learners who were not online ‘residents’ felt a degree of pride in the fact that they had taken part in a very ILT-heavy (but simple) learning activity. The more actively online learners admitted that much of their time online was not often productive and that they were a little surprised that forums & social media had the potential for quite powerful collaboration. And for me, most importantly, shifting the space where they learned created opportunities for much more collaboration, discussion and quality feedback. Elements of asynchronous learning began to appear in the class while they were doing the activity so there really was the opportunity to “hold that thought” and return to it via the forums. There were other advantages too – learners worked with a variety of colleagues who they normally wouldn’t have and this widened the social aspect of learning as well as allowing them to receive feedback from friendship groups that they normally had limited experience of working with.

    The greatest drawbacks were the fact that Moodle forums are really not very intuitive for the Facebook generation and also the fact that it was one of those lessons where had the IT dropped (as it sometimes does), my backup would have been a poor substitute indeed. Also, although there was a good deal of autonomy in terms of creativity & feedback, learners didn’t necessarily think of the activity as something they would have set up themselves subsequently even though they did respond very positively to the activity & agree that it was positive and effective to work like this.

    The activity could still be honed (which activity couldn’t!) but despite the potential drawbacks I would definitely do it this way going forward as the richness of the collaboration & the nature & quality of the feedback made it valuable for the students.

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