I want to talk a little bit about an upcoming professional development event I’ve helped design with the New Media Consorium and the NorthEast Regional Learning Analytics group; it has a neat structure that I think you’ll like (and that’s imminently copiable).
It tackles a thorny problem in Learning Analytics — the problem where everyone is excited by the idea of Learning Analytics but wants to see an actual project or two to get a sense of how they themselves might go about it. And it takes advantage of a thing I like to do (which I recently called Phase Two of Creation)–pushing an inchoate idea past the ephemeral idea stage (where it’s vulnerable to all sorts of nit-picky objections) into the more choate world (where you can still object to the thing, but it is there in front of you, itself its own best testament to its possible existence).
Here’s the idea as it is evolving. Instead of meeting and talking about Learning Analytics (or “LA”) as a concept, we’re meeting with the goal of developing ideas. We’ve recruited teams from a handful of schools and other organizations who have an interest in LA, and who either have the germ of an idea for a possible LA project, or have the feeling that an idea is on the way, or have a desire to have an idea.
We’ll meet in an Adobe Connect room (or whatever you call the Adobe Connect online collaboration space in the singular countable form) Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of the week of October 31 for about an hour and a half each. On the Monday we’ll talk a bit about Learning Analytics and the kinds of projects we think will emerge, we’ll meet each other, and we’ll talk about our interests. We’ll also introduce our super-simple Project Template idea.
It’ll be each team’s goal to fill out the Project Template with information related to their LA idea by the end of the week. The template has five sections: 1. State your problem; 2. Define your activities; 3. Define your data; 4. Explain how the data relates to the problem; 5. Envision the Project’s Effect.
Each team will have a draft project template due before the Wednesday session and a second draft due before the Friday session. On Wednesday, we’ll organize feedback for the participants from the other teams and the organizers in this way: each team will talk about their project for 5 minutes, then listen (without talking) for 10 minutes while the rest of the groups discuss their project.
We’ll encourage participants to use the “Ladder of Feedback” structure when talking about projects–clarifying questions, things you liked, things that made you go “hmmm,” and suggestions. In that order.
Teams will journal about their experiences, in a wiki, with five entries required, one per day: their idea, their project draft, what they learned from the feedback on their project, their 2nd draft, and, finally, the “Now what?” or “Next Steps” entry on the last day of the workshop.
On Wednesday and Friday we’ll bring in a guest speaker to talk for 10 minutes on a key aspect of LA projects–likely data analysis and assessment. Those experts will contribute their own feedback on the projects to the groups later in the session in which they speak.
On the following week we’ll invite the participants to describe their projects as part of a national webinar on Learning Analytics hosed by NMC (slated for Thursday, 11/4).
So there you have it. Instead of a traditional day-long sereis of PPT presentations on LA that leaves attendees hanging, as it were, as they file out of the lecture hall, wondering what to do next, we’ve organized a hands-on idea development exercise, that takes an hour or so per day over a week, uses a team’s own ideas (read: intrinsic motivation) and gives them successive rounds of feedback, while engaging their feedback on parallel projects. People come in with an idea or a hope for one and leave with a vetted project plan, a grounding in LA, a new network of peers, a sense of context formed by the other teams’ projects, and a speaking opportunity. It should be fun.