This is less a blog post, and more a reflective journal. As many of you are aware, I’m currently completing a Masters degree in Online Teaching. As part of the third assignment, we have been asked to create a reflective portfolio based on prompts throughout the unit. These are my candid reflections on my own practice.
– encounters with open education you’ve had prior to starting H880 (you could use Tony Bates’s list in Step 1.6, ‘Encounters with openness’, as a reference point)
I was educated in both the private and state sector. The open education model in the 1980s & 1990s often involved education material from the BBC in collaboration with the Open University.
As a child I benefitted from open access to local libraries & museums which were government funded but free at point of access.
– challenges you’ve experienced when trying to work or study in the open
Where open access to education or resources is funded, this often comes with attached restrictions and requirements to promote the message of those who fund the resources. This is one of the main arguments against home-educating parents receiving funding from local authorities as universally accessible education is not always in line with organisations like Ofsted.
– any plans you already have for becoming more open as a learner, educator or other professional
I am currently developing several MOOCs for my own company, including resources to study the ICDL. These are provided as free-to-study courses with the option to sit the exams with us to gain the formal qualification.
– any concerns you have about becoming more open in your practice or studies.
As an author and private educator, I am mindful about how resources, and courses are funded. I have a strong ethical foundation in my company that everyone contributes equally as we all enable each other to perform our roles – part of this is that we are all paid an equal wage. Using CC assets simply to save money feels at odds with this.
Your response to the percentage of time you spend on the activities in Bates’s model, and the percentage of time you’d like to be spending on those activities:
I’d suggest that I’m a technologist experimenter. Pretty much all aspects of my work & home life use or are governed by technology. Teaching computer science means that I need to keep up with new technology, but I’m naturally inclined to get excited about the “next big thing” and don’t fear jumping in feet first.
My percentages – I’m actually quite happy with this mix, I’d probably only swap the teaching & curating:
Teacher for Learning: 20% –> 10%
Curator: 20% –>30%
– the skills or knowledge gaps that you’ll need to address in order to realise your aspirations
I’d like to work on my course creation skills and include more analytics to clearly identify my learners’ progress pathways. Time management is something that I am actively working on as I am juggling running a company where I am the primary tutor & author with study on H880, and extra writing/resource development contracts.
– your initial plans for developing those skills and/or addressing the knowledge gaps (other than studying this course)
The course development skills are being addresses to a greater extent by H880. It’s not only the content, but the space to reflect that’s been beneficial instead of flying from one thing to another. I’m currently running a pilot where I am using AI to organise my time to reduce admin & planning time.
– any contextual factors that influence the balance of activities involved in your current role, including those that may prevent you realising your aspirations.
I have to be mindful that the work I do is generating sufficient income into the company to remain viable. The rising running costs have certainly impacted the percentages for Bates’ model and this year has included cost cuts to enable continued study.
As a continued consideration, my health & mobility impacts on the balance of activities. The overall 100% in terms of available hours fluctuates with my health which can be difficult when others rely on my availability, so I’m not always able to dedicate the time I would like to.
– your views on the value of teaching observations and any concerns you have about them
Despite a couple of negative experiences with observations, I still feel that they are beneficial overall to teaching and have the potential to positively influence skills and knowledge. If used as a part of peer-observation or mentoring, they can have an impact on enhancing teaching skills through allowing the observed teacher to test out new ideas with the benefit of feedback from someone able to view the lesson from a different perspective.
– any contextual factors influencing your views about teaching observations – for example, your views might be grounded in an experience of being observed yourself
I do believe that my views are heavily influenced by my own experiences. Having experienced several years in a secondary school where we were obliged to participate in peer-observations, this fostered a supportive environment and positively influenced our interactions with learners as we were regularly in receipt of feedback in addition to writing it. By removing the dynamic of manager/observee in favour of peer evaluation, teachers were more willing to show a realistic lesson rather than an unrealistically prepared lessons.
– any personal or professional development plans you have as a consequence of studying the material on teaching observations.
I’m currently planning my annual student voice survey which I use to set company objectives for the coming year. This year, I would like to include a lesson observation as I have recorded the majority of my group lessons from this year. In this way, the tutor I work with on this can see a realistic lesson by watching one at random.
Over the past few weeks, my engagement with the H880 materials has led me to reflect on my own use of Open Educational Resources (OER). I’ve often turned to YouTube videos to learn new programming skills and used openly accessible courses on the W3schools website. These resources have been invaluable in my learning journey, providing flexible and accessible ways to develop my skills.
The H880 materials have not only deepened my understanding of OER but also inspired me to integrate open practices into my teaching. I’ve recently embedded a collaborative notes project into my Learning Management System (LMS). This project, inspired by the portfolio in Unit 3, encourages learners to share their notes with others, fostering a culture of collaboration and shared learning. It’s a step towards making the learning process more open and participatory.
It’s still early days in the course, but I’m already seeing the impact on my thinking about ‘openness’ in education. As an educator in a career based on private provision, I’ve often viewed education as a somewhat closed system. However, the concept of open education is challenging this view, making me reconsider the potential of open practices to enhance learning and teaching.
I’ve written this reflection, specifically reflecting on my work creating and running distance learning courses, as this aligns better than my direct 1-2-1 tuition.
In terms of ‘using’, I’ve been able to leverage a variety of open resources to enhance my courses, from open artwork to open-source software. This has not only enriched the learning experience for my students but also allowed me to keep costs down, making education more accessible. This has enabled me to create several free to access smaller courses.
When it comes to ‘creating‘, I’ve been proactive in developing my own open resources, such as sharing “lite” versions of learning resources and course materials. This has been an easier process when working for larger organisations as through their funding, I am able to focus on producing high quality content without worrying about the impact on my personal income.
In the ‘connecting‘ quadrant, I’ve made efforts to foster a sense of community among my students, encouraging them to collaborate and learn from each other using comments in each lesson – this has been a direct impact from H880 and the useful conversations within comments in lessons. I also have a social media group of over 300 parents where I am able to freely share ideas for learning.
Finally, in terms of ‘contributing‘, I’ve been sharing my ideas and experiences with the wider private tuition community through a community of practice for private tutors. I created the Tutors Learning Network in 2000, which has since grown to a community of over 1000 private tutors who actively engage as a professional learning community. This has not only benefited others but also enriched my own practice, as I’ve received valuable feedback and ideas in return.
Looking ahead, I’m particularly excited about expanding my distance learning offerings and making recorded lessons available as self-study programs. I believe this will provide greater flexibility for my students and allow me to reach a wider audience.
I’ve written the following reflection based on my experiences tutoring and running distance learning through TeachAllAboutIt. Below, I have mapped these against Hegarty’s 8 Attributes of Open Pedagogy.
- Participatory technologies have been integral to my teaching approach. I utilised text based forums / chats, social media groups, and online live lessons on Google Meet to foster an interactive learning environment, engaging students in a dynamic way. In live lessons, learners complete visual notes using Classkick so that all activities are interactive.
- Openness and trust have been key in creating a positive learning atmosphere. I’ve encouraged transparency, inviting students to openly share their thoughts and ideas through lesson comments and an annual student/parent survey that I have been running since 2019.
- This openness has sparked innovation and creativity. Empowering students to contribute their unique perspectives which has led to changes and improvements to my distance learning courses. In 2023, I have invested a large amount of time in moving my courses to a new LMS & integrating H5P interactive elements such as digital notes into all of my courses.
- Sharing ideas and resources wasn’t something that I had reflected on clearly before, but it occurred to me that it has been something that I have done through both TeachAllAboutIt with my Facebook group, “KS3, iGCSE, & A Level Computer Science For Home Education”, and the Facebook group “Tutors Learning Network UK”, where I’ve been able to disseminate valuable resources and engage in meaningful discussions with fellow educators.
- Although my learners have been encouraged to take ownership of their learning, an area for development is the ability for learner-generated resources. I attempted this within several courses, encouraging learners to share their revision notes to help each other, but to date none have been willing to share these openly.
- Reflective practice has been something that I try to model. I share my reflections on my student/parent voice survey each summer through my blog, and have published these reflections in the same way. At milestones in their learning, I encourage my learners to contemplate their learning journey and identify areas for improvement.
- Peer review is difficult in a distance learning environment with younger learners. This is a feature of my new LMS and I intend to make careful use of this within my groups to encourage a collaborative learning environment.
Drawing from my experiences running TeachAllAboutIt, my online presence teachallaboutit.uk and social media accounts for @teachallaboutit, I’ve found that open curation plays a pivotal role in shaping my professional identity and enhancing the learning experiences of my students.
Open curation allows me to archive and share a wealth of resources, from lesson materials to insightful articles, which not only serve as a learning repository but also contribute to the broader educational community. Sharing resources that I have found useful or interesting has helped to create a nonjudgmental space for learners to access accurate and credible information. It allows me to raise up voices that may otherwise not be heard.
I would like to me more active on my social media platforms, but find that time pressures when balancing a full “teaching timetable” of over 30 hours contact time, studying towards an MA in Online Education, and my own home life, leaves consistent social media posting as a lower priority task.
With that said, sharing my thoughts, insights, and experiences on these platforms over the course of my 15+ years teaching has enabled me to establish a professional persona that reflects my values and pedagogical beliefs. It’s interesting to look back at these accounts to see which values have been constant throughout my career.
I made the decision to close my Twitter account in early 2023 as I no longer wanted my professional persona to be linked to the platform due to a number of ethical issues. This not only lost years of content, but disconnected me from a number of colleagues with whom I had connected with solely through this channel. With the introduction of Threads, some of these connections have been reinstated.
Looking ahead, I plan to I aim to build on the areas where I have fostered a culture of collaborative learning and knowledge sharing. I also intend to explore the use of AI technologies, to enhance user engagement and personalise learning experiences.
My journey with Technology-Enhanced Learning (TEL) collaboration has been reflective of my journey as a digital resident. I initially engaged with others via Twitter, particularly being involved with the weekly #CASchat, but due to ethical concerns, I decided to shift my focus. I found a new home in Threads, reconnecting with my computer science colleagues, and fostering a more supportive and inclusive dialogue. With many work and family commitments, I have found this difficult to keep up with regularly.
The highlight of my TEL-related collaboration has been the creation of the Tutors Learning Network (TLN) on Facebook. This professional learning community, initially designed to aid tutors in transitioning their practice to an online space through COVID lockdowns, has grown to over 1000 active members. It has become an active hub that we use daily for sharing ideas and best practices, and supporting others in our field.
Within TLN, we’ve taken collaboration to another level through Continuous Professional Development (CPD). Tutors actively participate in online teachmeets, fostering a culture of shared learning and growth. Additionally, they contribute by submitting tutorials, providing valuable insights to help their peers. This collaborative approach has not only enriched our collective knowledge but also strengthened our community.
My journey with educational technologies, both as an educator and a learner, has included a variety of evolving technologies. To a degree, this is because my academic subject is computer science and I have a software programming background. Because of this, I am naturally inclined towards a technology-led approach. As a learner, I’ve experienced the flexibility and accessibility of online learning through the Open University’s H880 course – this distance learning approach is one that suits me for a number of reasons, but this has improved significantly through the provision of accessible documents which I have talked about more in the accessibility section.
To keep my programming skills up-to-date and to build my tuition website, I’ve utilised resources such as YouTube and LinkedIn Learning. These platforms provide open education through video tutorials which I find particularly useful when learning to use a new platform. I have been able to produce several of my own YouTube tutorials which feature smaller tutorials or streamed revision help.
As an educator, I’ve designed and built courses using TutorLMS and H5P technology. These tools have allowed me to create more interactive content than a simple set of videos or written lessons, enhancing the learning experience for my students.
I’ve also leveraged Google Meet and Zoom for hosting live lessons and meetings, providing a real-time, interactive learning environment. Classkick whiteboards have been instrumental in creating more interactive lessons, fostering active participation and engagement from my students.
Looking to the future, I’m intrigued by the potential of AI in education. I believe it can help become more productive with content creation. Additionally, AI could serve as a tool for initial feedback, streamlining the marking process and allowing me to focus on providing more in-depth feedback. I would certainly like the time to explore this.
I have greatly benefited from informal skills education through platforms like YouTube and the Stack Overflow website, which have been instrumental in developing my programming skills. These platforms have provided me with a wealth of knowledge and a unique learning experience. Whilst I learnt many of my foundation programming skills in a formal learning environment, the vast majority of my complex skills have been learnt through informal methods.
From a private company perspective, open scholarship presents challenges. While I have been able to create several free-to-access level 1 courses attached to exams we run, offering taught courses for free would make the business unviable. Balancing the need for open access to education and the financial sustainability of the business is a constant challenge.
One of the ways that I have been able to engage in open scholarship as a company is by contributing to the development of resources for BCS for the new Computing T Levels as a contracted author. Whilst the development of these resources are funded, they are subsequently freely distributed to classroom teachers, enhancing their teaching capabilities and enriching the learning experience for students
During the past half term, I have applied for an associate lecturer position at the Open University. This opportunity would enable me to engage more in the production of open resources, further contributing to the open scholarship movement while ensuring my own financial sustainability.
The main takeaway from this reflection is that whilst open education aligns well with my personal ethics, it is a delicate balance of contributing to open scholarship while maintaining financial viability.
Recently, as a learner, I experienced firsthand the barriers to accessibility when my screen reader required me to copy and paste all text while accessing the H880 course. This experience has significantly influenced my approach as an educator. Since experiencing the frustration of accessing text on screen, I’ve been working to embed text-to-speech features in all of my online (LMS) lessons, ensuring that my content is accessible to learners who find this feature helpful. To help with this, I have used ElevelLabs to create a digital version of my voice which will allow me to produce a recognisable audio reading of each page much more quickly (and with the added benefit of being able to recreate the audio if changes are made to the text).
Ethics also played a significant role in my decision to leave Twitter for both personal and professional accounts. Despite recognising the platform’s potential for shared scholarship among educators, I was uncomfortable with its role in enabling discrimination against LGBTQ people. This was a difficult decision, but ultimately, my commitment to allyship and ethical principles outweighed the potential benefits of the platform.
In my role as an educator, I’ve had the privilege of teaching a diverse range of learners from the home education community through my distance learning courses. This diversity has brought a wider range of needs, but it has also fostered an openness among learners and parents to collaborate with me in improving accessibility. This experience has reinforced my commitment to equity and inclusivity in TEL.
As a wheelchair user with a variable health condition, synchronous learning can be challenging. This personal experience has shaped my understanding of the importance of accessibility in education. However, I am also aware that my personal experience of accessibility will differ from another person’s and as such I believe that whilst we can do our best to create accessible designs, being open to adaptions based on feedback is equally important.
FutureLearn has been a game-changer for me in terms of post-graduate learning. Whilst I do miss the comradery of the classroom, its flexibility allows me to assign time to learning that works around my work and health restrictions. This often means engaging in large chunks of learning each week, as opposed to the recommended little and often approach, but it works for me.
The student forums on FutureLearn have been instrumental in helping me navigate neurodiversity barriers. The ability to check in and discuss progress using non-verbal communication has been a significant motivator. Additionally, I’ve found online body doubling through www.flow.club to be a helpful tool for maintaining focus.
While I’ve been hesitant to discuss my disability with my learners, I recognise that there might be value in being more open about it and encouraging them to share features that would benefit their learning journey. However, I am cautious about this openness being misconstrued as a “no excuses” inspiration narrative, which I am uncomfortable with. Balancing transparency with maintaining appropriate boundaries is a learning process and something that I am keen to explore more.