Thursday, 12 November 2015

Opening the doors on peer to peer learning

A couple of weeks ago my colleague and I ran our mash-up/open-door session for first and second years on "choosing your research topic"

I term it "open door" because we literally had partition doors opened between our respective classes that run at the same time on a Monday afternoon. My colleague takes the second years for a research skills module whilst I am next door teaching the first years a general introduction to studying in HE, which is presently focused on developing a group reseach project.

We planned the session as a "world cafe" event to give students from one year an opportunity to meet as many in the other as possible. Each table had a "host", a question to be discussed and flipchart paper and pens.

The questions were:
A= What are the big issues currently in the news concerning health and social care?
B = What issues in health and social care do you think are neglected? (could benefit from more research)
C = What are the best resources to help you with your research?
D = What makes a group project/presentation really successful?
E= How does work experience help with understanding subjects studied on the course (and vice versa)
F = What are your career plans and how could your research help you achieve them? 

The event went pretty much as planned and there was a fabulous level energy in the room - LOTS of chat and laughter and the table hosts fed back using a hand held mic, to general applause.

At the end of the session we used audience response "clickers" to get some instant feedback. In general, the reaction from the students was very positive - 66% of all responses indicated that meeting other students and learning from one another were much appreciated, just 10% felt it was NOT useful.

When asked if they wanted a repeat session, the first years were 65% against and the second years 66% against. However, there were slight variations in the two iterations of the session.
In group one (76 students), which was actually quite crowded (most students preferred the earlier start time and came along depsite what their timetable said...) the feeling was more pronounced - particularly amongst the 2nd years (76% said no). In the second session, a much smaller number overall (46 students), the second years were actually more positive and 60% voted in favour of a repeat session. This second group contained a number of mature second year students who reported that they had enjoyed taking on a mentoring role with the younger students.

52% of all students said that overall the session had helped them to understand the importance of research on the course but only 20% felt they were any clearer about their actual choice of research topic. In a sense this is not that surprising as it is still very early in the term and such decisions have yet to be finalised. And for the first year students, this was the first time they had been asked to think about this question.

There were however some tangible outputs in the form of flipcharts full of research topic ideas, (which we also photographed and later posted on the VLE).

Before embarking on this session I had crowdsourced a bit of advice. One comment that really stood out from Joan Mahoney at the HEA  was to really think about what you are trying to achieve.

With hindsight, I suspect we were trying to achieve too much, too soon; asking for some volunteer mentors to help the first years think about designing their research topics might work better, whilst this could also provide a more structured experience for the 2nd year mentors, especially with better advance briefing or training.

Having now set the first year students off on developing their group research projects, I do feel that they have a better grasp of current issues and are ready to engage with them, so the "topics brainstorm" element of the open doors session was definitely helpful. The other thing I have noticed is a major increase of late in traffic on the course Facebook groups (first and second years) where students have lately been posting relevant articles, book recommendations and even guidance on how to select a research topic - including references back to the joint session we ran. Second year students have also suggested that they would welcome some joint teaching with Year 3 around research.

So nothing conclusive from the experiment, but definitely food for thought for future research teaching across all three years.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Reflecting on the digital story

image: jane challinor

Over the summer I have been working with colleagues at UIB on a paper outlining our adventures with digital storytelling. We reached a conclusion that whilst as a learning activity it had value in promoting collaboration and an awareness of open educational practices as well as developing digital skills, there are caveats about its use for developing reflective skills, particularly with students at the beginning of their university studies.

What we found, in broad terms is that more mature students are better at reflecting (that is they reflect more deeply). This has led me to conclude that as an activity designed to promote reflectivity - and especially as a reflective assessment tool - it is perhaps best left until the final year.

For me this was also borne out by the large number of first year students who failed to submit the digital story at the first (and even 2nd) attempt. This could just be a consequence of having a large number of student last year (ie we were just more likely to have students who had unrelated problems that prevented them from submitting) but in reality the module had the highest number of referred and non-submitting students across the course (around 10%) whereas in the past it has had the lowest incidence of non-submission and referral.

Well - I may be jumping the gun in putting this all down to the mode of final assessment, and it is certainly the case that the final year students all submitted and all passed - most at a high level, but it has certainly given me pause for thought.

Indeed I have already decided to change the mode of assessment for the first year module this year, reverting to a group research project which has worked well in the past. I will though run the same assessment for the final years.

Ok - but what did the first year students think? I am going to be giving a guest session on the second year research module later in the year and I have decided to use the digital storytelling project as my theme. I have therefore asked the students themselves to provide me with feedback on their experience of the final assessment last academic year - and I will feedback to them the findings of that survey.

So here's a sneak preview. I have had 52 responses so far out of a cohort of 126 (41%). Of these 90% are female (this reflects the makeup of the cohort) and 70% are aged 18-24.
23% are over 35 years old.

In creating their digital story, 70% used Prezi, 24% Powerpoint (12 students) and 6% another online tool - Knovio.  As a result of their experience, 75% said they are likely to use the same or another online tool in future for presentations and collaborative tasks. Just 28% (14 students) said they would only use PowerPoint going forward (suggesting that 2 students have tried online platforms and decided to revert to PowerPoint).

What did they get out of the experience?
78% thought it fun
57% thought it was technically challenging
85% said it had helped them to improve their reflective skills
82% said it had helped them improve their digital skills
80% thought it had given them confidence to create content on line
86% thought it relevant to their studies
but just 47% thought it relevant to their future career - and only 44% would mention this as a skill on their CV

Comments from the students expand a little on these results:

Positive and constructive feedback:

a. I feel like the digital story assignment was not quite challenging enough. It seemed to be more of an easy and fun task to complete . 

b. On reflection I should of challenged myself more. Been more adventures

c. I really enjoyed this assignment and it boosted my self confidence. I was very proud at what I had achieved and how much I had progressed.

d. I found the digital story difficult and daunting to begin with, but eventually enjoyed creating my story and proud that I did so.

e. Digital story was something I had usually done in the medium of film. I'm really glad we had this assignment as it opened my eyes to more digital platforms. I also think this would be a fantastic tool to use with certain more tech minded service users

f. It was very enjoyable, relevant to my studies, and gave you chance to create a bit of fun into studies rather than essays, it gave you a breather from the heavy work. Before I came to your lesson I did not know about Prezi but I will certainly use it again,

g. Enjoyable task however, talking in the video was a little tasking, a lot of preparation is needed for someone who lacks in confidence

Negative feedback:
h. I think that it was completely pointless and irrelevant to our course. I don't know why we needed to do it personally, and I think that it should be scraped for the new people starting the course.

i. I just thought the story telling was irrelevant to what we needed to do most people didn't want to do it I perfer the other tasks this one was just too much

On the whole, the student response is a lot more positive than I had anticipated. Interestingly the two final, highly negative comments came from students in the 18-24 year old group. These were the only two completely negative responses, and even one of these (i) felt that her digital and reflective skills had improved as a result of the task. The more positive comments (c-f) came from the over 35's.

I do now have some regret about abandoning the reflective digital story this year. However, the use of digital tools to present the outcomes of research will form a large part of the final group project that they are engaged in this year. Hopefully, this will preserve the "fun" and creative elements of the assessment task as well as continuing to develop confidence in creating online content.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Vertical Teaching

In response to suggestions from students, a colleague and I have volunteered to run an open class for first and second years together in Term 1.

We are both engaged in teaching research skills - albeit at different levels - and in this session we will be encouraging students to share and develop ideas about possible research projects they are going to do this year. A hoped for by product is a sharing of experiences and developing bonds between the two year groups.

We don't currently have a PAL, PASS or student mentoring system in place - we have tried this in the past with little success, but it is something I'd like to see resurrected - and this open class could be the beginning.

However, being uncertain how to go about such a venture, and wondering if anyone had tried this before, I used the LDHEN email list to solicit ideas, links, advice. Here's what I got back.

Sandra Abegglen (London Met): 
Abegglen, S., Burns, T. & Sinfield, S. (2015). Voices from the margins: Narratives of learning development in a digital age. The Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change, 1(1). Available online:

I am also running a blog that gives insight into the work we are doing:

Sandra Sinfield (London Met): we run a second year module: Peer Mentoring in Practice (PMiP) which wraps around a core first year module: Becoming an Educationalist.
Part of the work of the second year module is to support the first years with their developing sense of belonging - and also to facilitate their various first year projects: blogging to learn; develop a digital me; study & academic skills research project.
We have the modules running concurrently - and specifically the third hour of the PMiP module requires the students to be with the first year students.

Ricardo Eversely (London Met): I teach within the Visual Communication cluster on the BA Graphic Design and Illustration courses. We currently employ this system within our Design School teaching at

It's called the Studio System here at The Cass and works within a framework that sees 2nd and 3rd year students sharing the same workspace for three out of their four modules throughout the year. MY STUDIOS TO DATE

Liz Thomas (Edgehill): There are a range of examples of across year collaboration in the Compendium of Effective Practice in Directed Independent Learning ( which might give you some ideas.

Joan Mahoney (HEA Academy):  Here are some slides I used for a workshop last year.
There’s a few research references in these. The key thing, I think, (its almost impossible!) is finding time to really plan and to think through each step. Be really clear what it is that you are doing. E.g are you providing mentoring? are you providing peer-led learning? (students need to be clear they are not teaching). There are a whole pile of nuts and bolts that need to be considered (noted in the slides).  If everyone is clear what it is they are involved in, and are using the same language, that helps

Nicholas Bowskill (Derby): We've done this for various applications including student induction & transition. The important point for us was to make sessions benefit both Year1 and Year2 students. We ran a student-generated transition session for 2nd year students so they could talk and listen to each other. We then ran a student-generated induction session for Year 1 students so they could do the same. We then had Year2 students respond to the issues raised by Year1 students.
The outcome was a chance to reflect for Year2 students (on previous year and their second year at university). It was a chance for Year 1 students to recognise they weren't alone in having particular concerns. It also provided a 'shape' or structure for the Year 2 students to mentor Year1 students in a socially-contingent manner.
We've done it between academics and students as two interacting cohorts as well. We thought it was valuable to understand the journey from student to academic and vice versa. In that instance, we had students collaborate about reflective practice (what does it mean, how can we work together etc). Then we had academics collaborate as a department on the same issues (what did reflective practice mean to them etc). We then shared and discussed the thinking of both groups and it was very illuminating for all concerned. We're extending that work at the moment (to both sides of the 'partnership' concept).
It was a way of extending the idea of Student As Partner/Producer to intergroup ways of thinking and working. There's also a workshop in London coming up if you want to experience it firsthand. We do bespoke workshops too. Details online at: 

Thanks to everyone who shared their ideas - hope it's been of benefit to others too: I'll be blogging about the set up and outcomes as we go along.

Monday, 7 September 2015

#ueef15 - "Conta’m un conte... digital, per favor"/ "Tell Me a Story - make it digital!"

On Wednesday 9th September I am going to present at the Summer School of the Unversity of the Balearic Isands (UIB) Ibiza - sadly, by Skype and not in person.

The theme is "trending topics in ITC" and my session is about the digital storytelling project I have been working on with Gemmar Tur and Victoria Marin from UIB over the past year.

Here is the Prezi in Spanish:

and the English version:

So what is a digital story? For me, this means a mixed media presentation, living on the web, which probably incorporates music, images, written words and – possibly – the author’s voice.

When I Googled "cuentos digitales" on, in preparation for this event, I mainly found stories for children, but in the collaborative study, our use of digital storytelling focused on reflection on learning by students in HE who are engaged in professional education (teaching and health and social care professions).

Storytelling is a very ancient human activity and one that has been used for millennia in the realm of education. Stories contact deeper emotions and call for greater creativity than the usual essay, report or portfolio and they are almost innately reflective – indeed, reflection in a professional setting often starts with the recounting of a story. The story form allows us to make sense of events and our own thoughts, but also allows us to see things from a different perspective.

Why a DIGITAL story? 
Firstly, the platforms available to us on which to create digital stories lend themselves to a multimedia creation which engages the audience on many different levels: music and imagery combine to affect us emotionally and aesthetically. Also, for students preparing for employment these days, the development of 21st century skills – including digital competence – is essential. Creating a digital story therefore provides an authentic task (reflection on learning/reflection for professional development) which at the same time develops digital skills. Furthermore, the use of OER (as embedded resources and as a finished artefact) teaches important lessons about collaboration, digital identity and copyright whilst providing a platform on which to share our ideas, our stories, with the wider world.

What are the benefits of digital storytelling?
Obviously – increasing digital confidence and competence. But also - allowing creative expression, giving a voice to those with little confidence in academic writing, giving students the opportunity to practise speaking in public. And most students (over 80% in my end of year survey) find it a fun assignment to do.

Are there any disadvantages?
It can be a real challenge for anyone not used to working on the web or using digital tools – students AND teachers.

For the teacher - it can take longer to plan classes, putting appropriate scaffolding in place to guide the less confident students. If you are going to grade the finished story, you need to think about marking schemes or rubrics – for both the digital and the reflective elements.

For the student – some guidance is needed on keeping safe on a public platform and thinking about the crafting of your digital identity

So – HOW do you make a digital story?
Fortunately there are lots of step by step guides available. My favourite website is:  (which also gives guidance on platforms and tools you can use)  and this is the original digital storytelling site

What did the students think?

It was:
Fun 82%
Technically challenging 62%
Improved my digital skills 90%
Helped me to become more reflective 83%
Relevant to my studies 85%
Relevant to my future career 44%

As a result I am more likely to:
reflect on my learning 90%
reflect on my professional practice 86%
use the same tool again 75%
try other online tools 75%
stick to PowerPoint 28%
be cautious about sharing personal information on line 75%
mention this as a skill on my CV 46%

Interestingly, the students I surveyed (in their first year) generally didn't see this as an "employability skill",  although this was an aspect mentioned by the final year students. (For more detail about themes explored in the stories -  and more student feedback -  see previous blog posts)

This is not really so surprising given the stage the students are at, but it does perhaps point to the fact that more work needs to be done to set the professional context for this activity in future.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

#altc Open Learning? It's a Peach

This is the outline of my presentation for ALTC 2015 on Thursday 9 September

#altc 2015 Open Leaning? It's a Peach! from Jane Challinor

This presentation gives a brief overview of an innovative learning activity and assignment that I did with my class last year which involved the use – and creation -  of Open Educational resources.

"Peach" refers to the site PhotopeachThis provides a simple, scaffolded approach to creating online content:
students upload images, organise them, add captions, choose from selected music or link to YouTube then share the finished product on Facebook; they can easily share a group log-in so that they can collaborate virtually.

A bit of background: I teach a first year Health and Social Care module known as Research and Professional Practice. The aim of my module is primarily to introduce students to academic study – including digital competence, referencing, and reflective practice & group work.

I have 120 students and we work in two groups of 60  in a new, technology-enhanced classroom know as SCALE UPThis holds up to 100 students in the classroom at any time; has round tables holding nine students, Macs (3 students per mac), Wifi, -  all set up for an enquiry based learning approach.

Before students arrived I conducted a pre-course “Digital skills” survey via Facebook to find out what they already knew, what skills they had and where they felt less confident: what emerged form this was that:

74% were not confident with online content creation
44% were not confident about referencing
52% were not confident about Harvard specifically

interestingly, 65% said they were confident about copyright (BUT on further enquiry, it turned out they actually thought it was OK to use music from You Tube, their own Itunes accounts or that any Google images were copyright free)

So, why use OERs and open technology? the most compelling argument for me is about collaboration: we certainly don’t have any thing on our VLE that allows students to collaborate online, not even to create content – unless you include a rather clunky e-portfolio plug in (and frankly I don’t!)  But OERs mean collaboration beyond the classroom and the cohort. Furthermore, OERs, social media, web 2.0 technology are all beginning to be used in the Health and Social Care field to create communities of practice amongst professionals – and  indeed are enabling service users to connect, to educate themselves and to take charge of their own well being. So for me it makes sense to use open platforms with these students from the outset.

And yes – Open platforms are more fun than essays! They allow students to express themselves in quite different ways and to be creative – which is particularly useful in reflective tasks.

The aim of my module is to introduce students to academic study – primarily: how to search for information, referencing and writing skills; group work, reflective practice.

So this first formative assignment aimed to combine these elements:
  • Providing an experience of working collaboratively by working in groups
  • Getting them to reflect on professional values – “the Health and Social Care professional I want to be”
  • Using a simple online site for content creation
  • Learning how to find relevant images, add captions, choose music
  • Learning how to reference the media used and/or find CC/copyright free
  • Showing them an alternative to Powerpoint!
Did it work?
The proof of the pudding for me was that, 6 months later, in the final task of the module, (a reflective digital story) 

  • 90% still managed to use (and correctly attribute) CC/copyright free images 
  • 68% chose to use an online site (i.e. not PowerPoint!) - including Prezi, Knovio, WeVideo, MovieMaker - suggesting an increase in confidence with online content creation.
In the final digital story, reflecting on their learning from the module, they also noted (amongst other things)
  • an improvement in digital skills (16%)
  • improved skill in referencing (40%)
  • improved understanding of values (18%) 
  • the value of working in groups (46%)

students' feedback on the module was overwhelmingly positive (actually the highest module evaluation scores I have had in four years of teaching this subject). 

So how do I feel about that? Why, just peachy, of course!  

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Teaching and learning with digital storytelling

Image: Flicker wfryer  CC BY-SA 2.0

The digital story format is something I have used this year for the first time and, because I liked the idea so much, (and because it fitted well with each) I have used it as a part of the summative assessment for both my first year "study skills" and the final year "Leading Teams" modules.

The fit with the first year module is particularly apt as this is all about developing digital skills: from finding and managing information to Harvard referencing, from learning to use the VLE and sending emails to creating online collaborative content with Google Drive, Padlet and Photopeach.

For the final year students this is very deliberately about encouraging a summative reflection of their whole three years of University study preparatory to presenting themselves to employers in the health and social care field. And its about honing their "21st century skills". It is also presented very much as an opportunity for them to reflect on their experience of team work and their potential as leaders.

Preparation for this summative assessment took virtually the same route in each module, despite the difference in levels. Probably the degree of scaffolding for the first year cohort was higher but essentially the process and the materials used were the same in each case.

Step 1 at the start of the academic year was a warm up digital exercise using Photopeach where students worked in small groups to develop a photostory about the values of health and social care.

Following this, the theme of being a reflective practitioner, which emerged as a key theme from this consideration of professional values and identity, was explored further in a workshop when students were presented with information about a number of relevant models (Kolb, Gibbs, Moon) and undertook an initial exercise reflecting on their own significant and transformative learning experiences.

Mid way through Term 2, we returned to the theme of the reflective practitioner. The final year students undertook some group reflection and self evaluation related to the student led learning activities they had just run. With the first year students, I went over the theoretical models of reflection once more and gave them a set of prompts to use in small group discussions as a stimulus for starting to develop their reflective accounts.

Both groups were introduced to the website which has lovely examples of digital stories using a variety of media and platforms and provides a really straightforward "How to" guide. For the first year students, in response to questions and concerns, I produced some simple screencasts showing in more detail how to use Prezi as a platform. Then on second thoughts I made these available to the final year students too. Although in general the final year students were less inhibited about creating a reflective digital story, they still had some worries about the technical side of production.

Finally I ran two or three drop in technical workshops for anyone who was still struggling or needing reassurance. During the whole process I only encountered two students (out of around 200) who claimed the task was beyond them. One was a male first year student who was a self declared technophobe but who was seeking additional help from the library and learning resources staff; the other a final year student who initially panicked herself into believing the task was impossible but finally talked herself round to the realisation that she could at any rate produce a PowerPoint presentation - with audio - and went away from the drop in session with renewed determination!

There were of course many other students who encountered difficulties, made mistakes, failed to grasp the finer points of Prezi etc, but the informal workshops also provided opportunities for students to help one another, showcase their own first efforts and get feedback, as well as ask me questions. These small group sessions were among the most enjoyable of the academic year for me precisely because there was more opportunity here for peer to peer teaching. At the end of one of these classes an older student was talking to me about the difficulties he was still having in understanding Prezi. A younger student overhearing him interrupted, invited him to join her in the library for a quick tutorial and three days later he had submitted his first "draft"!

The final step in the process was to go through Moon's Levels of Learning in detail - with exemplars - as these were closely aligned to the assessment criteria. For example, the lowest level, Noticing (description without reflection) might equate to a 3rd for the learning outcome related to quality of reflection, whilst the highest level -Transformative Learning - would be a High or Exceptional 1st.

The exemplars - which were short samples of writing reflecting on working in a group - were important in really clearly illustrating what was meant by each level and seemed to help the students to  grasp the concept more easily. On the down side, one or two students did quote these examples back at me in their stories!

Comparing the reflective stories of first and final year students that are currently being submitted, some differences are emerging. Not surprisingly, the first year students are not reaching the higher level of reflections in most cases - they tend to be split between Level 2, Making Sense or Level 3 Making Meaning areas of Moon's map of learning. The final year students by comparison are split between the Level 3 (35/84) or Level 4 (Working with Meaning) areas (27/84) with only 14 in the Level 2 area or mainly descriptive.

Technically the first years are also not as adept: few have provided soundtracks or voice-overs on their presentations and one or two are rather thin in terms of content too. Notably though, one first year student who is a mature "returner" to full time study has made her year long struggle with technology (and her eventual triumph) the main focus of her digital story - which she has done to a very high standard using PowerPoint, with voice over.

Alison: A Year of Firsts

In terms of themes, top of the final year students' list of topics is team work (72% of students referred to this but that was the theme of the module after all). After this comes future plans and recognition of transferability of skills from study to work (70% each) - with graduation a few weeks away that is not a big surprise either! Next in line is increased confidence (68%), improved communication skills, reference to academic subjects and developing study skills, time management, and the value of work experience (all mentioned by around 60% of students).

For the first year students, the most popular themes are reference to academic subjects studied, moving away from home, fitting in and making friends and the support of other students. Next in order of frequency, around a half of first year students mention team work - noting this as a way of working that is very different from school or college and one which brings many challenges. Around a half of all the students also recognise how their confidence and independence have increased through overcoming personal and academic problems.

Other things I have taken note of in particular are whether or not the students specifically mention the learning process (85% of final year students do), the development of self awareness (increased understanding about themselves) (74%) or the act of reflecting (57%) . These are elements which I saw as being more of a meta reflection (a reflection on reflection) and indicative of a higher order of learning. In the case of first year students only about half mention learning and self awareness specifically. Less than 15% discuss the process of reflection.

I have also noticed a difference in the stories of mature students. In almost every case, these students seem to reflect more deeply and evidence higher levels of learning. Generally they have had a variety of challenges to overcome (returning to education after initial failure or career change), had more life experience (migrating from another country), have other demands on their time (such as family) and this manifests itself in richer content, higher levels of self awareness.

Lucy: Me,myself, my learning,my family

Donna: Change

Tinashe: Too Old for School

What about the process from my perspective? In teaching "about" reflection, I have certainly found students to be more engaged possibly because they have a summative assignment in view that has reflection as its main focus.

Teaching "about" reflection though does not create reflective practitioners. That can only happen through deliberate acts of reflection on experience that are designed to raise self awareness. The process of creating a reflective story is such an activity: it forces the student a) to think about the reflective process itself (perhaps using a specific model, such as Gibbs to add structure) b) to practise the skills - moving from describing to evaluating an experience, to analysing and formulating plans for future action and c) to perform the art of reflection. Through the use of various media - combining images with spoken words and music - the finished artefact is a creative representation of learning: reflection as performance. The digital element adds other dimensions and levels of complexity: the need to get to grips with new technologies, familiarisation with online platforms, the reality of putting an essentially private reflective activity "out there" in a public space.

So my role changes to that of audience or witness to the performance and I am also the assessor. I find this a difficult balancing act. On the one hand I have to award a grade, on the other I am in a privileged role of witnessing what is often a very personal ** account - a performance that has something of the confessional about it. I am acutely aware of the student's vulnerability in what they share, at times I feel very emotional in response: touched by a moving story of overcoming huge challenges, amused by a witty remark, proud of their achievements. I have felt these emotional responses before when students have written reflective accounts as essays - but not as often, nor as deeply.

The digital stories are for the most part fairly short - 5 to 10 minutes was the guideline - and are submitted as the final part of a portfolio of work which has already received formative feedback or grade in partial fulfilment of their summative assessment. As a capstone project for the module it is therefore not particularly time-consuming to assess, so all in all, marking these has been a genuine pleasure! The biggest drawback is when something goes wrong technically - files uploaded in a format I can't open, problems uploading large files to the VLE, url's copied incorrectly or online videos set to private. This has involved a few hurried emails to get everything sorted out which does add a little more work to the marking process and a teacher using this method of assessment does need to be fairly confident themselves in using a variety of digital tools - or have some very friendly IT or Learning Technology staff standing by! That said, some of the students have proved themselves very technically creative and I have learned some new tricks from them. That to me has been another of the aspects that has made this assessment so enjoyable.

**(Students have been made fully aware of the private/public options for the sites used and have employed pseudonyms, restricted urls or even used non-published media - such as Powerpoint or MP4 files - in order to maintain their privacy. Prezi for example is public, unless a premium subscription is paid, YouTube has non-searchable or private url options whilst Knovio can also be set to private).

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Digital Storytelling as an assesment tool: the students' view

The brief was to create "an account of your personal learning from the module, commenting and reflecting on your role in the group tasks and including your thoughts about your future career. This account will be produced as a “digital story” – a mix of images, voice narration, written words and music".

Later this was expanded and the following prompts were given:
What has been the most important/surprising/interesting/exciting thing you have learnt this year?
What happened? Who else was involved?
How did you feel about it at the time? How do you feel now?
What were the positives and negatives about the experience?
Can you relate this experience to any theory or research you know about (or could you research more into this type of thing?) (for example - you found yourself taking over as the leader of your group because no one else would: how does this relate to theory about emergent leadership? OR in your group you all had different ideas about what to do - how might this apply to multidisciplinary working in Health and Social Care?)
Overall, what do you conclude from this learning - how has it changed you as a person, changed your ideas?
Looking back, what do you now think about the values you selected in the first Photopeach exercise - would you still pick the same ones? What values or attitudes seem to be most important to you now?
If you had to do this year again, what would you do differently?
What tips would you give to another student about to start their final year?
Based on this experience, how might you plan to approach similar situations in the workplace?
What are your plans after graduating?
So what did the students make of digital storytelling as an approach to assessment?
One or two students have commented to me - in personal communications and in their introductions to their final portfolios - about the process of completing this assignment:

"I came into year three really worried and felt very overwhelmed, but learning how to reflect well has really allowed me to understand any flaws I have and how to improve on this for the future, especially when I go on to study my nursing MSc next September. I really have managed to grow and learn a lot about myself [when] previously I tried to avoid fears I had." (student A)
"the digital story was not a task I was particularly looking forward to as I have never done anything of the kind before, and do not enjoy recording myself! Having said this, it was probably one of my most enjoyable assignments and once I had started it and got into it I didn't actually feel as if I was doing work. The newly learnt skill of producing a digital video is not only one I can use when applying for jobs but also one I can use in my personal life, as I am an avid traveller and can now produce videos portraying my travels. " (student B)
"Creating a digital story was not an easy ask for me at all... Looking back at this digital story and realising that I am now able to create more different ones make me very proud.....The digital story gave me an opportunity to express myself through images. "(student C)
"I personally really enjoyed working on my digital story ... I think this is important to do so as it reminds the individual of changes they have gone through and [how]they have developed ...  I have videoed myself which was very hard as I can be shy talking in front of my camera. However, I have now overcome the fears of using a camera to video myself which I think is amazing ... this skill would be beneficial for my future career, as I may have to talk in front of patients and other professionals or create a presentation." (Student D)

 The following students have also given me permission to post their work here - I think it is possible from these examples to see the variety of responses - in terms of tools and platforms used, depth of reflection and themes - to the assignment brief. In my next post I'll talk more about the teaching and learning processes involved and the impact on me as the assessor. If you'd like to leave any comments here about the students' work, please do. I'm sure they'd enjoy the feedback :)

Sarah (imovie):

Gabrielle (movie maker):
Emily (Screencast-o-matic):

Anna (Knovio):

Amandip (PowerPoint): 

Mia (Prezi):

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Digital Storytelling - creativity, reflection and 21st century skills

A great article by Grete Jamissen and Goro Skou puts into words some of my instincts about digital storytelling and why reflection using creative media differs from that using a traditional essay form.

"A digital story is an example of a multimodal text where various semiotic resources and
modalities (Kress, 2003, Løvland, 2007, Liestøl, Fagerjord & Hannemyr, 2009) create meaning and involve our senses in various ways, and we believe the combination
strengthens students’ learning processes. Written text and images affect our visual
sense; spoken language, music and sound affect the auditive sense; images and music
affect our feelings, separately and in combination. We are “touched”, and in a digital
storytelling context this engagement involves the producer, the peers taking part in the
process and the audience of the finished product. Multimodal texts can be found in both new and old media, but digital media have brought opportunities to work with stories in new ways. New technologies make new semiotic resources available and influence our ability to express and interpret meaning through multimodal interaction (Løvland, 2007)."

They also discuss how the "art" of working in health and social care field is about a preconscious activity - what I would probably describe as empathy - which lies at the heart of reflective practice. The health and social care practitioner needs to develop skills in interpreting human behaviour - "reading" multilayered messages about needs, desires, fears etc - and can best be trained to do so by becoming attuned to their own. Certainly this is what provides the foundation for the training and supervision of counsellors and psychotherapists, for example.

Counselling and psychotherapy training and supervision often make use of creative media - art, poetry, storytelling, drama - to arrive at transformative understandings of human behaviour which cannot always be portrayed simply through the written word. When I trained to be a humanistic counsellor, for example, role play ("empty chair" work) drama, story telling, painting and music played a major role in the workshops.

Understanding others through an understanding of our own behaviour is one aspect of the learning available to us through storytelling, another is the act of reflection which itself leads to the creation of new possibilities for action. As Norman Jackson pointed out recently in the Lifewide Magazine, in reflecting we are often motivated to create artefacts to help us remember and make concrete our learning:
"Reflection is inherently about creation since we create new understanding through the thinking process that causes us to pay attention to the detail of what we have learnt in one situation, that might be applied in future in another situation. The new insights we gain through reflective thinking gives us the confidence to put ourselves into new unfamiliar situations which in turn will demand our creativity. Furthermore, reflective thinking may motivate us to make artefacts to record or document our experiences and represent our learning for example in diaries, scrapbooks and blogs, and this perhaps is where social media plays an increasing role."

The digital element adds yet another dimension: the student isn't "performing" in the traditional sense in front of an audience especially if the digital artefact is locked down so that only a selected few can view it. The process is more akin to 1:1 supervision or a conversation with one's mentor. The development of a digital artefact requires skills that may be unfamiliar (most of us have painted, modelled clay, acted, sung - however inexpertly - at some point during our school days). Creating a Prezi, recording a soundtrack, editing a video is not something we all have practice in and added to the usual reticence about performing or sharing our creations with another is the sheer technical difficulty to be overcome in doing this in a medium with which we are not familiar.

However as Bernard Robin (2009) points out:
"This creative work provides students with a strong foundation in what many educators (Brown, Bryan, and Brown, 2005; Jakes, 2006; Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2004) have begun calling 21st Century Literacy, Digital Age Literacies, or 21st Century Skills. Regardless of the specific term being used, these skills are being described as the combination of:
Digital literacy—the ability to communicate with an ever-expanding community to discuss issues, gather information, and seek help;
Global literacy—the capacity to read, interpret, respond, and contextualize messages from a global perspective  
Technology literacy—the ability to use computers and other technology to improve learning, productivity, and performance;
Visual literacy—the ability to understand, produce, and communicate through visual images;  
Information literacy—the ability to find, evaluate, and synthesize information.
Digital storytelling can be a potent learning experience that encompasses much of what society hopes that students will know and be able to perform in the 21st century (Jakes and Brennan, 2005). "