Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Flexible Learning Idea


  • I teach a numeracy skills paper called 'Measurement' which is compulsory for students identified as having low numeracy skills.
  • Working towards embedding literacy and numeracy into the course.

  • Making course content accessible to all learning styles and neuro-diversities.

The Plan

A multi media package to use in class and upload onto Moodle that includes:

  • An instructional video on how to make a frame or box.

  • Supporting images/thumbnail images that act as bullet points, with brief descriptions.

  • Worksheets

  • Questionnaires

The video will have material shot in the Design workshop, and some footage shot at Grey's Studio - a professional picture framers.
The footage shot in the Design workshop will feature familiar tools, machines and people, while the Grey's Studio footage will show hi-tech computerized picture framing machinery.

The idea is to get numerical concepts such as measurement of lengths and angles into the course content by using a practical exercise.
The package including the video, supporting information and worksheets will be available to all students in the course and across programmes. This will mean that students may no longer be exposed to their peers as needing extra maths help, and ultimately may lead to numeracy testing at the beginning of courses being fazed out.

Instructional videos can be uploaded to Youtube or a similar open, free view website so any interested parties, whether enrolled at Otago Polytechnic or not, can view them.

Here is an example video from Youtube. My video will be more focused on the measurement techniques.

supporting thumbnails

Holding side against guide. Important info.

Mark the length of the inner side

With the mitre saw set to 45 degrees, cut, not your fingers.

Now doing something else very useful and informative.

Links to questionnaires about the video

Links to measurement worksheets

A DVD of the resources will also be available.

Who will benefit?

  • The package will be accessible to students, wherever they are in the world.

  • Students that don't like classroom environments, for example, 'Student Y' that has Aspergers Syndrome
  • Learners that want to revisit the tutorial how ever many times they like, whenever they like1.

  • Students with a diverse range of preferred ways of absorbing information, or 'learning styles'2.

  • Learners who have slow computers and thus have difficulty watching video, can still benefit from the thumbnail imagery, written descriptions, worksheets and questionnaires.

  • Students with low levels of numeracy skills can enjoy privacy and not be identified as 'innumerate'.

  • Learners who are not confident with computers or who lack computer access at home can enjoy viewing the resources from a DVD.


Moodle training.

Film making capability.

At this stage I believe I have everything I need to produce the video. My department has video cameras. The computers at work have MovieMaker and my laptop has iMovieHD (my preferred program).

Part or all of the numeracy assessment could be completed through Moodle via the questionnaires and worksheets.


Shared / open access digital resources such as video, worksheets and questionnaires lessen the need for paper resources, which reduces waste and cost.

Recorded tutorials that are freely available to students means facilitators only need to spend the time demonstrating a particular skill once.

Commitment to Maori and Pacific Island students

Be actively seeking feedback and advice on how to best facilitate learning environments that are more suited to Maori students and Pacific Island students.
This feedback should be welcomed from students, iwi, staff and local community.
Be actively working towards embedding principals of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, The Treaty of Waitangi.

Flexible Learning and Otago Polytechnic

My plan is cooperative and harmonious with the Otago Polytechnic Charter 2006-2010, which can be found here.

Chapter 3, P.4. Our Vision, states the following which Otago Polytechnic is to be recognised for:

  • Our practical approach to learning which connects theory with practice through applied research, cooperative learning and practical experience.
  • The flexibility of our delivery and our willingness to accommodate the specific learning aspirations of students through individualised and cross disciplinary programmes of learning.
  • Accessibility for all learners.

  • The creative use of innovative technology to support learning.

My flexible learning plan includes objectives that are in line with the Otago Polytechnic Charter 2006-2010 including being recognised for accessibility for all learners.

Numerical skills and information may be received by more students in a more meaningful way by engaging in hands-on creative exercises with reinforcing media of video and digital stills, questionnaires and worksheets which support the diverse learning preferences of our learners.


1 Kolb's Experiential Learning Theory has labelled four stages of experience a learner goes through when learning something new; Thinking, Feeling, Reflecting and Acting. The four stages are linked in the cycle. The learner can enter the cycle at any stage depending on their learning preference.

The medium of an instructional video leans towards learners with preferences for observing / concrete experience and reflection.
A student who learns best through concrete experience and reflecting on the action will find it useful to revisit the video however many times is necessary, without having to 'make do' with only one tutorial/demonstration, or have to wait for a lecturer to repeat the demonstration.

The worksheets and questionnaires in the package would cater more to the other side of the cycle to do with abstract conceptualization, where learners can apply information gathered in reflection of the video to solve other problems.

VARK learning styles have highlighted four ways learners can absorb information; Visually, Aurally, through Reading/writing and Kinesthetically, and that we can have preferences towards one mode or a combination of two, three or all of them.
Except for Kinesthetic, all the VARK learning preferences will be addressed in my package by the inclusion of many different media.
Visual- Still and moving images with the video and thumbnails.
Aural- Soundtrack with a spoken explanation of what is happening in the video.
Read-Written- Bullet points. Questionnaires, worksheets.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Day in the Life of Student 'Y'

Student 'Y' is studying on the Creative Studies course. He has 'high functioning autism' or Aspergers Syndrome.

A characteristic of students with Aspergers as stated by the University of Indianapolis, Disability Services Aspergers, is students 'may be very literal, concrete, logical, rule-oriented, rigid in applying social rules, and may lack comprehension of humor.'

Student 'Y' can find classroom situations difficult because of the many distractions. Those distractions could be: The other students, noise, harsh fluorescent lighting, changes in routine of classroom activity.
Student 'Y' might find his time in the classroom or studio spent predominantly being distracted by conversations in the room. He is unable to 'block out' the other students talking.
He may not enrol in the course in the first place because he does not believe the institution has understanding of his 'neurodiversity' and therefore cannot provide for his learning needs.

Some solutions:

For the distracting environment, Universal Design strategies can be employed. These strategies benefit ALL learners.
For Student 'Y', it is ideal that we have classrooms that avoid sensory overload (C. Vogel 2008), this is difficult in a studio based arts and design course.
Incorporating movable screens with storage space, or, rolling cupboard units would 'kill two birds with one stone'. The screens can create smaller insular areas for working while the shelf/cupboard space inside them provides a much needed home for all the random art gear strewn around the place.

For the perceived lack of institutional understanding -
At pre-enrollment time, when the learner is researching their options, a statement somewhere on the OP website and prospectus that acknowledges neurodiversity and a willingness to discuss possible accommodations with students.
A statement read out to all students in Orientation week, or the first week of classes. There are some sample statements here on the University of Indianapolis website. I'm not sure about the amount of information our students are given about Disability Services from Student Services.

Response to reading and watching...

Having read for the second time, the chapter from the book by Collis, B. & Moonen, J. (2001). Flexible learning: it's not just about distance, I found it to be a very sensible and holistic approach to flexible learning.

A few points and ideas about flexible learning that have jumped out to me since watching the video on Youtube 'A Portal to Media Literacy' (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4yApagnr0s&feature=PlayList&p=B0A1DB7F87217A4C&index=9) and re-reading the Collis & Moonen reading are:
Flexible learning is important because technology is advancing faster than we can learn it. In 'A Portal to Media Literacy' Michael Wesch talks about the students being the ones to shape and decide on the content of this technology in the future.
Flexible Learning strategies are important if our students are to be involved in the future of information. Students need to be equipped with the skills to not only negotiate the web, but to know that they have the power to network, share information and change the landscape of cyber space. Students need to know they have the power to contribute ethically and sustainably to the great pot of information and systems.

So, what is Flexible Learning? At present I see it like this: It's not about 'passive' learning. It's about students understanding their potential and learning ways to achieve that potential.
'Flexible learning is a movement away from a situation in which key decisions about learning are made in advance by the instructor or institution, towards a situation where the learner has a range of options from which to choose with respect to these key dimensions' (Collis & Moonen. p10.)

An antidote for 'passive' learning (where students try to absorb the packets of information that the lecturer dishes out, a.k.a the 'Acquisition Model') is the 'Participation model' (Collis & Moonen. p20,21,22.)

'With the Acquisition Model, the focus of learning activities is on the acquisition of pre-specified knowledge and the development of predetermined concepts. With the Participation Model, the focus of learning activities is on becoming a member of a community of practice, learning from the community but also contributing to it....with the Participation Model the interactions that the learner contributes to may serve to change the knowledge base of the community even as he or she participates'

'Who wants flexible learning?' is a question raised in the chapter that I think is very relevant.
I'm sure all students want some degree of flexibility, but different kinds of flexibility are wanted from one student to the next. Two main 'kinds' of student jump to mind at this point;
*The kind that asks: 'Can I do this? And this? And what about this?'
*and the kind that asks: 'What do I do now?'

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Flexible Teaching Practice

The students in my class are so varied, in their learning styles, range of knowledge and previous education.
I find it pays for me to have a wide range of resources at hand that can cater to the different learning styles, and also offer illustrations for the different levels of understanding that they have.

One of my goals as a teacher is to facilitate a learning environment in which the students will learn at a deep level. Flexibility in my delivery of information is crucial if I want to 'reach' all my students.
I'm a teacher that likes to sit WITH my students to teach and learn together, with sprinkles of 'stand up at the white board' instruction. The 'sit down together' approach encourages dialogue with lots of questions and discussions.
Some students prefer not to talk. For those students I make sure to have handouts with diagrams, images and other information that they can ponder in their own time.

The majority of my students have limited research skills, and often have difficulty with self directed learning and motivation. These areas could potentially benefit from Flexible teaching and leaning practices.
I will be examining an online tool that may address the issue of lack of motivation for research. So, more on that later...