ETEC 511 – Project Retrospective

I feel that this was an interesting project to be a part of, and coming into it late, eliminated some of my ability to influence the direction of the group, but I think my role became an early critic – asking pointed questions so that I could understand why decision were made – and help support them. One of the things I often did in meetings was try to help tie our decisions back to course readings, course content, and thinking about the project less as a project and more as an assignment. I think I also served as a bit of a wrangler of ideas, trying to limit scope creep.

One other thing I did was in my section (accessibility legislation) really try to refine the information into questions and answers, so that particular section became conversational. I recall talking about making our language plain, simple and understandable and how we could use that as an engagement strategy, and in turn making it more usable, which was I think my most important contribution to the process. I will admit my passenger-ness to the project, and did not feel 100% like it was my project (again, coming in late to it made it a bit of a challenge) so I always saw my role as a bit of a servant to the whole.

From a Nielsen (2003) perspective, Twine was at the same time easy to use and learn the basics of quickly. The simplicity of the design of the tool (questions and answers with expositional text) were easy to construct in Twine. The complexity of the subject matter however, made Twine a difficult choice to manage how each component piece linked. Had we not limited our choices to discuss, we absolutely would have been tangled in a web of, well, Twine. I think that the affordances of Twine’s output, especially in the way we designed the tool, kept the complexity down, which in turn allowed the tool to ultimately be more usable.

I don’t know if Twine ended up being the best choice as we had to bend it quite a lot to make it do what we wanted it to do. The tool ultimately configured us as designers, as we were pretty locked into Twine. While it ended up perfectly fine, it did limit us in some ways, that due to our technical understanding of what was possible and the time constraints it would have taken to further use Twine beyond what it is built for, I wonder if this would have been simpler to build using HTML and delivered a more accessible tool in the end?

References

Nielsen, J. (2003). Usability 101: Introduction to usability. Useit. 

ETEC 511: IP#8 – Attention

This assignment includes a requirement to do an attentional record. Here’s that:

TimeActivityDistractions
9-10Work tasks, email, tickets,Moving from task to task – completed chunks then moved to different task  
10-11Work meetingCataloging was a distractions
11-1211-11:30 lunch 11:30 – 12 work tasks, email, MS TeamsMoving from task to task – completed chunks then moved to different task  
12-1Work meetingDiscussion raised some questions that I searched for. MS Teams message came in from another team member, answered it  
1-2Work meeting (different) 
2-3Video Interview (2-6)Needed to be present during this, phone turned off, no distractions
3-4  
4-5  
5-6  
6-7Dinner prep and dinner, finish workNo phone/computer during dinner prep, work required focus and attention
7-8TV (listen to TV, not actively engaged)Doodle on phone, check email, play games
8-9TV (listen to TV, not actively engaged)Doodle on phone, check email, play games
Attentional Record

This is a bit of a curious exercise as it wants you to turn this data into some visual, but all my visual storytelling skills tell me that it’s not going to add any sort of additional information and abstracting this information one step further is actually obfuscating the information and making analysis harder. So I’m not going to do that.

This exercise for me was interesting, as the exercise was more distracting than my normal process. Typically, I am not a distracted person. I quite often choose not to look at my phone, or check email, or get distracted from what I am doing. If I am “distracted” chances are I’m bored (which is also how I relax, just not pay attention to anything, and stop being actively engaged). Setting out an activity where I have to pay attention to my attention – well, that’s going to be a recipe to double down my already disciplined approach to work, tasks and life. So, I don’t know that I have some great revelatory technique to deal with distractions – I’m not some ascetic monk, I just believe that being in the moment and present is important. In many ways, that’s what Citton (2017) is talking about in the Joint Attention section of the book – “we are always attentive in a particular situation.” (p. 83) In educational situations, attention varies depending on the student and their role – as if attention is social and co-constructed. However, there’s some social norms that drive attention (albeit younger students might adhere to this better than middle school students – who are more likely to be testing social norms). While I don’t necessarily agree that attention is co-constructed, it is (and our current social media world confirms) most certainly socially constructed. Peer groups can “pay attention” to certain musical acts, and ensuring you know those musical acts ensures your social status. Those relationships are social. Families and friends are often the most important people to drive attention and, in my chart, the times where I’m with friends and family, are also the ones where my attention is most undivided.

That sounds so high and mighty to write… but it’s true. The attention that I pay has the most value when I value the people around me. Thinking beyond this particular chart, but into the territory when I do use my phone for entertainment – it’s in transit, between places, and alone.

I will also say that Citton missing out on Neil Postman’s critiques of mass media for entertainment (and thus attention) is a gap that I paid attention to after reading the chapter.

ETEC 511: Tipping Point, A Critical Case Study Proposal

One of the observations I have made over the years, and particularly over the last decade at McMaster University, is that the LMS has mostly displaced the use of personal websites for teaching. The reasons for this are multifaceted and contextual to individual institutions, however, at McMaster, I have observed that it is most likely related to the course themes of Digital Labour (once in the LMS, it is easier, and less labourious to keep using the LMS and the labour of using the LMS can be offloaded to teaching assistants) and Attention (student preference is to have all learning in one place). However, there are secondary contributing factors, which would fall under Algorithms (enhanced ability to track and observe course activity) and Sustainability (not from an environmental standpoint, but a course sustainability practice). There is also a factor of culturalization – since 2011, LMS use has not been mandaked. The makeup of faculty has skewed younger and with that pre-LMS teaching has faded from institutional memory. In many cases, no one even thinks that teaching outside institutional systems is possible or even desirable.

ETEC 520 – Planning and Managing eLearning

Taking this course was a mistake. Well, for me it was. You might need the information. There were a few moments of learning, but for me, who plans and manages “elearning” (whatever that means) as a daily activity, the course was frustrating as it lacked the nuance of the day-to-day, it placed the institution at the centre of the planning when in reality, in my experience this is not planned at the institutional level – it requires a grassroots approach for many years before the institution codifies and standardizes it. The assignments were almost too focused on institutional needs (and I understand why they went this route with the design) – but in all likelihood, only a few of your graduates are going to be at that institutional level to influence change and by the time they get there, Tony Bates’ book will be horribly out of date and the lessons learned will not apply. I also never really got into a rhythm with this course. I’d literally read the readings on Monday, then think for four or five days, I’ve got to do the discussion…. Some weeks I couldn’t even do that. This course, for whatever reason broke my spirit. I’m not egotistical enough to suggest I know it all, I don’t. I think I never was able to connect the readings to the assignments, and the things that we were to do in the class didn’t ever really gel for me. Some of the gaps in the content were glaring for me as well.

In one assignment there’s an elearning readiness check – which assumes that the institution wants to engage in elearning at all! They can’t be ready if they don’t want to do it…. Then the tools that we could use to “assess” readiness were outdated and almost laughable. There was no mention of diversity, equity, accessibility or privacy in any of the assessment tools. Security was an afterthought. Interoperability, standards… those were not addressed as well. Cost was reduced to a line-item. Those are requirements in 2022, as in not optionals or nice to have, but as an institution you must look at technology and learning through those lens’. For a course to just skip over these issues is a bit disheartening.

Even if the assessment tools didn’t have those present – it’s easy to build that into the course by redesigning it to instead have the student design the readiness tool (which then releases the faculty from the dating of the material and the readings can be updated without requiring re-writes of the assessments) and build common factors through discussion and then design a “rubric” for assessment. Make that your first assignment. The second assignment is to look at implementation plans that are available. Analyze them for how your rubric might apply. This rubric could also be used for an RFP like scenario outside of the curriculum. Then re-write the rubric to address any gaps seen in implementation plans. Show some other rubrics. Critique the rubric as your final piece. Or have a reflective piece. Then you have a student-driven, student-centred course.

Admittedly I coasted through and put little effort into this. So I did the required minimum, slowly faded from discussions (which I hate when they’re so structured and stilted and non-organic). This wasn’t a fault of the course, it’s well designed, and was delivered by a facilitator that seemed to care (I would write truly cared, but I don’t know if that’s true or not). I, as a student, did not care. And for that I am sorry somewhat, because I should’ve been able to find a moment or a spot to hold up as worthwhile, but I couldn’t find that spot. So in some ways I failed this course, not marks-wise, but failed to be a good contributor. I was really disheartened by the lack of modern resources. I was really disappointed that this class, that I was honestly looking forward to at the beginning, was really frustrating for me. I can taste how close this is to a useful class for the modern context, but it just falls short. In a little bit of hindsight, it’s probably just a course that’s been in need of a refresh and probably is due up for a change shortly (fingers crossed!).

Oh, and to top it all off, I reused an APA cover sheet from a previous course, and the first time I copied it I didn’t know how to spell the facilitator’s name, so I gave it shot – as a placeholder – with the intention of correcting it later. I never did. To compound my utter stupidity, I submitted it, not once but twice, because the second time I just reused the same cover sheet and didn’t even bother checking. I did pull it together for the last submission, and sent off a mea culpa letter to the prof just to let them know I’m an idiot.

ETEC 510 – Design of Technology-Supported Learning Environments

Oh goodness. Well, my history comes back to life in this course. It’s been a while since I’ve designed something for learning – and then to apply a meta-analysis on top of that… was not easy, but I contributed to the group work well enough and put in some long hours to achieve what I needed to. I will say I was nervous about group work – not that the group members wouldn’t be able to pull their weight, but the way I work (which is deadline focused – and maybe some sort of undiagnosed ADHD-like-thing where I put stuff off until I have to finish it!) and whether I’d be able to pull it all together.

I don’t really recall, however we started building out an H5P object that tried to slim down the choice of EdTech tools out there – using branching logic. Ideally this would be done programmatically – so a simple PHP script to take your answers and give you some suggestions. Here’s an embed of the project:

Now it’s obviously not finished, and with 1555 unfinished stems, you’re more likely going to find holes than not. Remember this was built during the pandemic, and was heavily influenced by pandemic thinking. Give someone a resource and let them use it to help them make a decision. Make it available so that someone could contextualize it by taking it and reusing it elsewhere. However in the process, I think the entire group started getting a little nervous. Who would actually determine what’s best for a given situation? How do we quantify a process that is often part-discussion, part-negotiation? Are we just substituting our opinion and philosophies for instructor agency?

And for me, the major flaw is that there’s no (current) way to inject a human’s empathy into the subject. Empathy is a huge design component for what I used to do, which was consult with people and help them make ethical, compassionate (for themselves and their students) decisions about educational technology. How can we design a tool that eliminates one of the key components?

Also, the H5P branching logic tool really stops being useful after three levels – you just have too many options to practically do something with. And maintenance would be such a painful piece. With that said, the process that the group worked – without any real forming stage (if you are a firm believer in the forming-norming-performing stages of group development) – basically thrown together and boom, start producing. It worked. I could pat ourselves on the back and suggest we’re high performing folks and of course we’d perform, but I just think it was dedication to the project.

So if you’re not part of the ETEC course or reading this upon reflection, the resource is started, you can clone it and finish it if you’d like.

NOTE: I wrote most of this on January 13, 2022 but tidied up the writing over the subsequent six months. When I was finished tidying I backdated the entry.

ETEC 500 – Research Methodology In Education

This is the beginning of my Master’s work at UBC in the Master of Educational Technology program – which culminates in a project. I’m not sure where that will end up – I would (despite my media background) prefer to do some length of writing around digital literacy, information seeking behaviour online and informal learning communities (and why they are effective). I decided to take ETEC 500 first because it is a core course, and required, and it would provide the biggest challenge to me as it’s one of the few things in the curriculum that I feel is somewhat unknown to me. Like, let’s face it, I’ve been at some level of LMS administration since 2008, supporting eLearning since 2001, and overseeing a team of educational technology folks for just under a year. I’ve read most of the texts that are offered as readings, I know some of the authors’ work quite well. I’ve seen some of the authors speak multiple times, so I’m familiar with the arguments they will put forth. In scanning the curriculum, I’m thinking that I’ll have to be mindful of the amount of commentary with my history, experience as that will limit discussion honestly.

AND that’s why research is a good place for me to start because the novice brain I bring to the subject matter will be truly a novice brain. I love the academic rigour that research demands. I suspect that where I fell down is getting too bogged down in my own machinations and not being clear enough with outlining my thinking about a subject. While I did well, it was hard work. It will be interesting to see how this sticks with me, and while I really enjoyed the process of taking apart research papers to see what makes them tick.

I learned a whole lot about qualitative methodologies – and understand better why education (or at least progressive education) papers typically use quantitative – qualitative are often structured assuming that there is one, or a few, reasons for learning happening. Whereas, qualitative tend to be better at understanding the context of learning. I am absolutely much more interested in qualitative. Maybe that comes from my history of developing media objects – and the subtleties of those projects. Subtlety requires a bit more finesse, and a well designed media bit has some subtlety, whether it be in framing the subject or just working within constraints. A lot of the similarities between the two are immediately apparent to me, working creatively in a media and working with data is fundamentally similar.

The fact that it was unknown territory, and procedurally all different than any previous online course I had taken, was so refreshing, so new. Novelty will wear off, from the program and from the course of studies. Not everything will be new. Dealing with that and making it interesting for me will be a sub-challenge for this whole Master’s. I wonder how folks who have been professionals who have gone back to school for higher degrees in the same discipline manage it?

NOTE: I wrote this back in July. 2021, so I dated it as such, but decided to make this public so that I can add it to my (future) portfolio.