FLLinNZ Postcard 8

I attended the Moodle Moot at Waiariki Polytechnic from 3 to 4 February. This provided really valuable insights into the status of various TEC-funded projects which have incorporated this open source platform. For me, it’s been gratifying to see how Moodle has moved on from being something of a fringe player two years ago: it’s now used by a number of large institutions and it’s no longer looked down on to quite the same extent! I suspect it’s more significant than just providing a ‘free’ alternative LMS: Moodle is a good example of a new business model which is developing alongside the more traditional ones.

On 15 February I attended a research presentation at University of Auckland by Margaret Turnbull and Mavis Haigh on Replacing the nods and smiles: raising questions about philosophy and pedagogy in a predominantly web-based Master’s paper. Although based on a small sample, this provided some useful qualitative data on student perceptions of the online learning experience and some of the issues that teachers face in providing formative feedback online.

Early in 2005 I took on a formal role with Nga Kiwai Kete: the eLearning Toolbox, John Delaney’s TEC-funded eLearning project. This is a big time commitment for me on top of all my other work but the project fits well with my FLLinNZ goals and I feel I can make a worthwhile contribution here. It means I have had to rethink some of my planned FLLinNZ activities, but Nola warned us we’d have to be flexible!

I have been able to extend the work I undertook towards the end of 2004 with a small private training provider in Rotorua by working with senior staff to talk through their goals and educational values. I’ve followed this up by developing a formal eLearning Development Plan for the consideration of the governing body. This plan establishes achievable targets for the short and medium term and the provider’s feedback has been very positive.

My experience with this provider clarified for me my own approaches to mentoring in the eLearning area, and how this role is different from that of a professional developer. I’ve started to develop better models of the overall development process and how mentoring, coaching and professional development fit within this. This has provided me with a clearer perspective on leadership and my own role as a Flexible Learning Leader.

At the same time, I have started a mentoring process with a key focus on leadership. My mentor is a skilled and experienced practitioner, and a colleague that I have worked closely with in the past providing mentoring for new tertiary teachers. We have also established a secondary focus of exploring mentoring processes, and plan to publish something in this area in the future. The process has already provided valuable insights into issues arising from my professional work.

One technical area I’ve been exploring has been synchronous communication. I was hoping to offer a remote presentation using Breeze at a US conference on Women’s History – not really my field but a teacher development workshop I’ve run in the past would have fitted nicely with this. Unfortunately, it turned out the presentation would have had to be on our final sharing workshop day – a good illustration of the limitations of synchronous delivery. Anyway, although I wasn’t able to pursue this, it did get me investigating simple desktop video – something I’d played with and given up on years ago but is now much more than a toy.