Sunday, 2 February 2014

The End? Reflections as a Facilitator of #BYOD4L

Image source: Adapted from C. Frank Starmer with Creative Commons licence

Last week simply flew by. Combining a busy working week, the start of teaching in semester two and launching a week long open oniine course with a daily TweetChat between 8-9pm has brought its challenges. The biggest challenge has been juggling my time to ensure everything that needed my attention was given it.

Focussing on BYOD4L, this has been a long time in the planning. An idea seeded by my dear friend and colleague Chrissi Nerantzi led to a conversation sat at a train station. Her infectious enthusiasm of what we could do was what made me believe in what I could personally achieve. The world needs more people like Chrissi!

"Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars. Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait. The grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas."
Henry Ford

Looking back

Over the next 3 months Chrissi and I exchanged hundreds of direct messages using Twitter - sharing ideas and messages of what we had updated on the growing course site and planning documents held in Google Drive and Dropbox. Our shared excitement of wanting to make this a meaningful experience for those who chose to participate in the course, meant that we worked on this project at every spare moment we could grasp. This included long into the night and over the weekend. There was much to think about and consider. Deciding on the focus, the topics, the activities, the forums, the evaluation and on the list went. Putting these ideas into practice, writing, editing and seeking feedback along the way. Cristina Costa was invaluable in this process and as our critical friend looked over the course site and gave us feedback.

We knew we couldn't deliver this course in the format we wanted to without the help of others. Seeking out those we already knew had an interest in it was a starting point. We soon came up with a list of colleagues and were over the moon when each and every one agreed to be involved with this adventure. And it was an adventure. We had our hopes of what we wanted to achieve. Over Skype conversations Chrissi and I met online with our team of facilitators. We wanted to create the next best thing to meeting face to face. I hope it worked for them as well as it did for me. I wanted to hear their voices so that I could link this with their contributions and interactions going forward on Twitter and within our informal Facilitators Facebook group. 

Looking back over the BYOD4L week

I can remember vividly proofreading one final time before publishing our blog post on Topic 1: Connecting. Chrissi direct messaged me "I can't see the post!" My heart was in my mouth, what had I done? Had I somehow inadvertently deleted our crafted message? I then realised that because we had begun to write the drafts some time ago, been in and made edits etc. it had been set to private. Panic over. 

From then on I tried my best to keep abreast of the tweets, the blog posts, Facebook and Google+ entries; make comments and interact with those sharing their ideas and reflections. I also wanted to keep reflective posts of the days activities and I also wanted to contribute to the activities set up by ourselves as Facilitators. Engaging each evening between 8-9pm in the TweetChat involved leading the first TweetChat with Neil Withnell and checking prior to that the Facilitators hosting the others were ok and felt supported, and then following up creating the daily Storify were important aspects I wanted to get right. Reasurring DMs between Chrissi and myself helped enormously. Communicating is an integral part of the supportive process of any learning journey. Encouraging questions is vital.

Mobile devices

The aim of the course was to look at how we can learn using our own devices. I use my phone constantly throughout the day to read email, access and participate in social media channels, take photographs, make notes and check my diary for where I should be next. Where there is WiFi I will also use my iPad. However for many tasks I will still gravitate towards my laptop - or should I call it a notebook? Is this a mobile device? It fits in my handbag and comes with me when I need it. As my eyes get tired after a long day I just find the larger screen easier to use. My impatience sometimes of the slippy touch screen of my phone and iPad makes me discard these and use my notebook and mouse as I prefer this over the touchpad. After nearly two decades it feels comfortable to right click and scroll. I do remember however when it felt alien and uncomfortable...

During the course we talked about using smart devices and mobile devices. The associated book project with BYOD4L calls for contributions for Smart Learning teaching and learning with smartphones and tablets in post compulsory education. My search for smart devices via Wikipedia was not helping. (Note for Andrew Middleton - you have a duty to update this Wikipedia page!). So where does this leave me? 

  • A confession that I used multiple approaches to engage with this course. 
  • Recognition that when trying to explain to someone else how to use a particular tool this may differ depending on the the device used. 
  • Learning how to use YOUR OWN devices so that you feel comfortable is so important. 
  • Don't expect each time you go back to an app or tool to remember exactly how to use it. If you get stuck Google it and chances are you will find a guide someone has written or a YouTube clip demonstrating how to do it. 
  • It's ok to reach out and ask someone - Twitter is a great channel to do so. But don't forget the people you know - peers, family, students. A simple "Could you show me how to do x?" is all it takes. 
  • It helps to hear others talk and visually share how they are using new apps and tools 

A commitment to learning

There is a perception that people who like to use technology are all confident using it. Maybe some are, but many of us have to work at it, but in the knowledge that through learning something new, the results are worth it.  Even if the end result is not as expected there will be learning from it and the desire to seek out another approach. Our BYOD4L community shared examples of this. 

Learning anything new takes commitment. Commitment to engage means that you need to find time to dedicate. Having access to my own mobile device when and wherever I was was a great enabler. I could check in and make the most of those minutes on the bus to and from work or between meetings as I walked between venues.  

A key motivation for providing this learning opportunity was that we could create a reason for a learning community to form. I think we did this. Learning with others is what made it so valuable. 

Making learning fun

I have loved trying out some of the new apps my peers on this course have introduced me to. My artistic talents are somewhat lacking with a disconnect between what I see in my mind and what appears on paper at the end of a pencil or a brush. Digital apps enable you to create mashups and overlays using drawing tools. If it 'goes wrong' I can undo and have another go. Seeing how others have used these kinds of apps through BYOD4L has been so inspiring. The spontaneous contributions to our final TweetChat where the topic was creating, demonstrated that sometimes simplicity is enough. Our rough creations made and shared within the start of the chat were fun to do and sparked a great discussion. Just by capturing a photo and sharing via Twitter enabled us all to enjoy these together. Perfection is not required! 

I have learnt much about different approaches we can take to make learning fun and am already re-looking at how I approach my teaching. Sharing these experiences going forward is important. I hope others will do so too. 

The End?

So our 5 day open course has come to an end....

Is this the end? Absolutely not! We have an associated book project and an event in April to look forward to. Chrissi and I already have plans of how we can use the BYOD4L model for other learning opportunities. BYOD4L has a Creative Common licence and we hope others will adapt it to meet their needs. To find out more about you might do this we have created a list of suggestions.

 Image source: Wikipedia

The end of a chapter maybe. Thank you to everyone who made this learning community happen. 


  1. My dearest friend and colleague Sue,

    You are so so kind. It has been a joy to work on this project together. Our professional relationship has grown over the last few months and I am really really super happy that we worked together one this. I have found a special friend in you and this makes me look into the future with great excitement as I know that other collaborations will grow out of this one... well, they already are ;)

    Thanks again for everything and most importantly for being you.

  2. Well of course this wasn't the end. This was only the beginning :-)