Sunday, 6 April 2014

#digilit The experiment draws to a close

A year ago I was involved in two MOOCs - #oldsmooc and #octel - which helped me think about the redesign of my "traditional" study skills module to transform it into a more contemporary digital skills module. At the same time I volunteered to take part in a pilot of a Scale Up classroom environment. Just to add another variable to the mix, I also volunteered my module to be part of a Changing the Learning Landscape bid that the university was making to fund student mentors in classrooms

I have been blogging about this for the past year here on The Virtual Leader and also over on the module team blog Not To Scale

So now the great experiment is drawing to a close and the students have submitted their module evaluations.

There is much to learn from this. Designing a module to teach 21st century skills is one thing, designing it to be taught within a brand new teaching environment is another. The environment we teach in really does shape the how and the what of the curriculum. For this reason the changes made to the module were complex and complexity brings with it unintended consequences.

Some exciting and unlooked for outcomes for me are that a) more of the wider course team now want to teach in the Scale Up classroom b) there is general acceptance from the wider course team that digital literacy skills need to be embedded across the curriculum, so the module will likely disappear in 2015 and c) there is a lot of support within the team for greater use of student mentors in classrooms.

The last few weeks of the module have been particularly enjoyable as students have been working on their final group projects. My role has been much more that of a support for the groups and the classroom environment really lends itself well to this style of teaching. I feel the students and I are able to develop a relationship where I can see their progress and understanding and they understand the point of what we have been teaching them for the past 6 months!

I have now finished marking their final research projects and so it is possible to judge the extent to which digital literacy skills have been developed.

The first option they were given was to design a short research questionnaire using Survey Monkey or Google Forms. Option 2 was to use a platform such as pinterest or Tumblr to curate various resources relating to their particular research interests.

They also had to complete a worksheet in which they outlined the preparatory research they had carried out on their topic, reference their sources and discuss their design choices and any ethical issues.

I am generally very pleased with the majority of submissions which do demonstrate that they have managed to pick up the rudiments of Harvard referencing, can find their way around Google Drive and other web based tools and find articles, websites, ebooks and the like to support their work.

There is even the beginning of an understanding of research skills which, whilst many of the students don't see the point of them (according to their module feedback) we HE teachers will see as welcome news.

I will certainly be running at least one final iteration of this module. I have learned much about how to make bext use of the room, the technology and also what sort of assessment best aligns with the learning objectives for the module. Next year, project groups will be set up much earlier and there will be opportunities for formative feedback in Term 1, with the final project itself having more depth and breadth.

I will be sorry in one sense to see this module go altogether and will continue to be anxious about how well we can embed essential skills into the wider curriculum, but if that does begin to happen, the learning curve we have been through in the past few years will have been worthwhile.

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