Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Activity Eight continued – to answer some questions.

On initial investigation, I have found two sources of simulation software:

The first is free to download and is from Marmara University in Turkey. It is very basic and but allows you to build up circuits using components from a library. Once your circuit is built you can run it and view its operation. This simulator only covers single line diagrams (shown below) which is great for theoretical understanding of wiring diagrams but is quite limited in its overall ability. 

The second, is expensive and issued by licence, does have some basic free demo versions available downloadable from a United States company called Business Industrial Network. The screenshot below shows one of these demos, it incorporates a functioning graphical representation of how a typical electrical installation would look. It allows you to isolate, test and replace components until a fault is fixed. Time and components come at a virtual cost so correct fault finding techniques are important. This simulator only allows safe working techniques to be employed and stops you and prompts you if an unsafe act it about to take place. This simulator also gives some training information and screens showing wiring diagrams which can be compared to actual wiring (shown below).

This is just a couple examples which will be available and the exact area of simulation and products would need further research.

This second type of simulation could be used for formative assessment in the fact it gives a realistic time and cost result for the students work, as well as a breakdown of how many attempts they used and when trying for a second time, can compare their results to their first attempt. This could be used in group work where students can compete for the best results or work together to beat another group. This would encourage good work behaviour and ethics.

Based on GCTLT class discussion and my own research, I believe using Play OP as the platform for video resources would be best. I investigated the use of You Tube, and that would work quite well, my thoughts would be that students are more likely be distracted by other You Tube videos and links rather than sticking to the topics concerned. It is easy enough to link You Tube clips into Moodle if an external video is required, but I think by using the OP platform with reduce temptation to spend time looking up unrelated videos.

By incorporating these ideas I am hoping to increase the following four areas of flexibility:
  • Time
  • Delivery and Logistics
  •  Content
  •  Instructional Approaches and Resources.

By making a bulk of information and resources online, allows students so much more flexibility. This allows students to work through their own studies when they like, where the like and by picking out the resources that best suit their learning, they can learn in a manner they like.

The only real area of flexibility that cannot be enhanced is the entry level, unless we can include some bridging learning for prospective students to help build up skills or show competence in areas that they have no formal proof of knowledge.

I failed to include in my previous post some resources that back up my thoughts around simulation being helpful to the teaching of skills to students.

I was provided with a link to Gokhale (1996), an article titled ‘Effectiveness of Computer Simulation for Enhancing Higher Order Thinking’. This article contained two paragraphs that I found particularly interesting.

The first paragraph of interest being: “A primary objective of today’s teachers is to prepare students for the world of tomorrow. Pogrow (1994) indicated that if students are to be competitive in the years to come, faculty need to provide their students with the cognitive strategies that will enable them to think critically, making decisions, and solve problems.”
I believe, and also the belief of industry from their feedback, that this is very important for our graduates to function in the workplace, this is linking back to the basic idea of teaching students to learn rather than limiting their knowledge by only teaching them what we as teachers know. I heard once there is no reason why your children shouldn’t be smarter than you, and I agree, we should want them to be smarter than us. This is the same in teaching, and I have had this discussion with other teachers and also people I work with in the Navy. The idea is with both parenting and teaching new people in the workforce is that what we know as parents (we being our children’s first teachers) and leaders in our industries, that our knowledge now should be a given, we have learnt from mistakes and found the right way to get things done and by guiding them and showing them better ways of achieving and learning then they can carry on from where we are and build on this. The problems our learners face should be new to us, they should be thinking wider and further ahead than what we have so will encounter different problems to solve. This is why we need to teach them how to think, not what to think.

The second paragraph I found interesting, leading on from my previous statements but with the computer simulators in mind was: “In contrast to unguided exploratory activities, guided discovery has been found to be an effective learning method (Veenman, Elshout, & Busato, 1994). This method stimulates group interaction and is challenging enough to force students to use resources beyond what are available in the classroom. Menn (1993) evaluated the impact of different instructional media on student retention of subject matter. It was found that students remember only 10% of what they read; 20% of what they hear; 30%, if they see visuals related to what they are hearing; 50%, if they watch someone do something while explaining it; but almost 90%, if they do the job themselves even if only as a simulation. In other words, guided discovery through labs and computer simulations that are properly designed and implemented could revolutionize education.”

Gokhale, A.A. (1996, Summer). Effectiveness of Computer Simulation for Enhancing Higher Order Thinking. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education. Volume 33, Number 4.

Third party authors:
Menn, D. (1993, October). Multimedia in Education. PC World, M52-M60.

Pogrow, S. (1994). Students who just don’t understand. Educational Leadership, 52(3), 62-66.

Veenman, M.V.,Elshout, J.,& Busato, V.(1994). Metacognitive mediation in learning with computer-based simulations. Computers in Human Behaviour, 10(1),93-106.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Activity Eight

I believe the first strategy will enhance flexibility for my learners through being able to think the circuits through, and then use a little ‘trial and error’ to finalise their circuits without damage to equipment or themselves. I find a lot of my students are scared of electricity (which is great from a safety point of view) which prevents them from just trying things out and learning from their mistakes, and gaining confidence in their knowledge when they find things they weren’t sure about actually work.

The second strategy for learning will help those learners that prefer a one-on-one teaching approach, where they can use the instructional videos in their own time at their own pace to fully grasp the concepts demonstrated. They can get the video to repeat things they don’t understand first time around without the worry of having to speak up and stop the progress of an actual class lesson.   

Activity Seven

Define OER and OEP in my context.

Open Educational Recourses (OER):
This is programme information and learning resources accessible to current enrolled students and anyone interested in distance learning for interest rather than qualification.

Open Educational Practices (OEP):
This is the product of student learning (e-portfolios, project creation etc) is viewable online by any interested parties.

Reflection on what OER and OEP means for my teaching.

Open education resources are the likes of course notes, assessments, embedded videos, reference documents, AS/NZS standards and other useful information that is currently held on Moodle, but the exception is that currently only our enrolled students have access to this information. I believe it would be good to create an open Moodle page that allows prospective students or students who intend to visit us for a block course the information needed in advance to be better prepared when they get to our classrooms and workshops. It also gives prospective students an insight as to what is expected of them so could help self-select suitable applicants before they apply.

Open Education Practices is where our students could create an online production (video, webpage, blog etc) to collaborate ideas and final outcomes of project work. This type of platform could be used by my students to build up a portfolio of work that each group carries out as evidence for assessment and if applicable could be included in an electronic CV for prospective employers to get a better understanding of what the students achieve here.

Activity Six

How can I become a more sustainable practitioner? What does this mean to me?

My understanding of sustainable practice is getting the most productivity and learning from the least amount of input. Straight away I feel like this is a way of saying that I’m lazy, but what I mean is that it is about being efficient. I don’t think it takes anything more than common sense to realise that if you can plan a class, course, activity for this year and do it well, it shouldn’t need any additional work next year when the course is repeated.

What sort of learning and teaching strategies can you introduce to support your philosophy of sustainability?

I believe by creating templates for documents and filing these well so they can be easily accessed without too much trouble is a great start. Also, as I have mentioned before, I am moving my assessments onto Moodle as we work our way through my programme, this takes a little time and next year will only require a quick check to ensure it is still aligned with the most current unit standard version, but essentially it will just be ready to go. Also to go with this I am greatly reducing workload but allowing the Moodle system to carry out the majority of my marking, the only time I have to check is if a student has had three attempts at the assignment and still not passed, from here I only need to check incorrect answers, see if they are close enough to override the mark, and possibly add their answer into the bank of answers in the hope if the question was answered in the same manner next time around, would eliminate the need for my correction.
So basically all the big and little things I do this year, hopefully more or less run themselves next year, so I can focus on making the programme better in other ways rather than spending hours and hours every week with repetitive marking  

What are my organisations priorities for sustainability?

To be honest, I don’t know. I have been to many meetings and staff workshops and it seems to me that no two people have the same outlook on it.
Probably the best definition I have heard was that sustainability is about leaving the planet for our children with the same or more resources how we found it. This is very general, but to cover all aspects of the world, it needs to be general with our individual ideas applying it to our practice. I like that I am using the office printer only a couple of times a week, and no longer printing assignments, approximately 4 pages x 28 students = 112, by the time I have had five assignments, that’s a ream of paper….
We do have consumables in our teaching, mainly cables but also electrical fittings. Cables are the big expense, generally they get used several times, as longer lengths then put in the wire bin to be reused until they are too short to be used any further, from there they are taken to the recycle yard to help fund new cable or other consumable purchases. We also lengthen the life of or more expensive equipment by fitting cables from the screw terminals out to expendable connection blocks. This allows many years of students the ability to use the expendable terminals without damaging the ones fitted to the equipment, which would result in the need to replace that equipment to be able to wire it.

How can I design strategies that fit with the concepts of effective pedagogy?

Due to the large amount of theory in this programme, I think all I can really do is carry on trying to get the students as much practical workshop and hands on time possible. By the nature of the unit standards that we teach, there is quite a bit of over lap in topics at times. This means that the usual rule of 10 hours per credit is often too much for the teaching needed when there are overlaps. For example explaining the operation of Residual Current Devices (RCD’s) is covered in five different units. So by utilising this ‘free’ time by getting the students into the workshop for non-assessed learning is working out great for them. They get an amount of freedom to experiment with wiring methods without feeling the risk of failing the course, I think it helps keep them motivated through the theory as they are getting periods where they are reminded of the type of physical work they will get into once they leave OP.

In summary, I think we are well on the way to employing many flexible learning and sustainable concepts, and hopefully with some feedback from students we can only build on them.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Activity Five

I would like to investigate more mobile learning within the classroom and workshop areas for my course. I think more interactive classes would benefit both me and my learners through participation (sometimes anonymously, to benefit those that are more reserved than others) with immediate and graphical feedback.

My thoughts were to incorporate various mobile apps to create a learning base and reference area, but then realised Moodle already provides this base. The students already have logins and access to it so why not use this rather than reinvent the wheel. Looking on both the App Store and Play Store there are apps for Moodle but as far as I can tell they need to be set up by the OP Moodle administrator. I then looked at the mobile version of the Moodle website and I am happy that the layout is simple and easily navigated to perform all tasks, including assessments, relatively easily.

Up until this year I have only used Moodle to allow students to print off copies of assignments and read pdf documents applicable to their course. But as I have moved into using the assessment options I can now see the benefit of adding in additional classroom learning.

As a learning activity I thought there is benefit in creating reference videos for different topics, as an example, rather than trying to show 25 students how to wire up an extension lead, I can video it and explain the process and provide tips and hints, then play this to the class or let them refer to it on their mobile devices when it is their turn to carry out the activity. They could post comments or questions for other students to read or answer therefore learning from each other to encourage self-learning.

This type of video could also be altered and added into the quiz to show the procedure being carried out incorrectly then get the students to identify what was done wrong or unsafely.

The fact that this information would be available anywhere at any time allows students to study where and when suits their lifestyle. I could provide links to various other locations to view or read methods, case studies and documents related to each topic. This will also help to incorporate universal design as I attempt to bring the certificate course to a wider range of students.

This is a very basic sample video based around my thoughts for video references. The final video would need to be better planned and I would make better use of video maker editing to provide graphics and text to emphasise important facts (plus I read the tester incorrectly during this sample).



Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Activity Four

Exploring Universal Design for the Certificate in Electrical Technology.

For me, this activity has provoked me to think about who I direct my allegiance to. I am caught between what my managers expect from student success, what is fair on the student, what is best for industry, what is expected from us by employers and what is legal from the Electrical Workers Registration Board (EWRB).

Depending on which point of view I choose, the barriers and support to create true Universal Design for learning differ greatly.

I recently (finally) became a fully registered electrician, and therefore have something to loose (my registration) if I do not comply with the legal aspects of ‘Supervision’ in accordance with the EWRB. I believe my reputation as an electrician and lecturer, and also the reputation of OP as a training institute, equally match the need to maintain high standards for industry, which therefore is best for the student.

So, how do I approach this? Well, trying to keep everyone happy is how we work, so I believe we can begin this course as flexible and open as we like as long as it concludes with a student who is ‘Work Ready’ in all respects.

I can see benefits in finding ways for single parents or people working full time to complete this course, but I think we need to be able to ensure that they can fit into industry at the end of the course. It is unfair on our students to lead them into an institution that will bend over backwards to accommodate them, if at the end they are not capable of fitting into the 7am – 5pm six day a week industry.

I think we need to ensure the student is aware of the expectations of the industry so they are not left with a student loan and jobless. Assuming students could remain flexible throughout the course and knew the expectations, and we cater to different styles of learning and disabilities, once they leave us and are in an apprenticeship, they will not have our on-going support and I doubt many employers will understand these disabilities – or sadly, want to get themselves involved if they did.

So, yes, we can ensure there is wheelchair access and special tools to help those with physical disabilities, we can design many types of assessment to ensure students are able to clearly demonstrate they understand the topics, but this means we will have to adapt every assessment to every person and where do you draw the line of the word ‘Disability’? Will students claim to have a disability when they discover we will give additional support or alternative assessments to those that genuinely do? How do we maintain a common standard of assessment to ensure fairness for all? Who trains me to understand how to assess for the many types of disability and learning? And finally where do I find the time to make this happen?

In conclusion, I think we could redesign this course from scratch to open it up to many types of learners, but only if this was in a different industry that allowed graduates to work in a more flexible manner upon course completion. I think in this case we would just be producing jobless graduates. 

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Activity Three

Findings and Reflections of Flexible Learning in the New Zealand Diploma in Engineering (Electrical) (Level 6)

This course comprises of approximately 28 students ranging from school leavers (and one current school student getting a head start) through to experienced tradespeople wishing to upgrade their qualifications.

Using appendix 3, p.41-44 in A practical guide to providing flexible learning in future and higher education by Casey,J. & Wilson,P.(2005) I have found the five dimensions of flexibility are currently incorporated in the following ways:

Starting and finishing a course:  At the start of every term or semester – Medium
This course has starting times in February and July 2014

Submitting assignments and interacting within the course: Assignment deadlines fixed and set times for interaction. – Not Flexible
Very rigid deadlines – this is mainly to train for timely work in the industry.

Tempo / Pace of studying: Materials and tasks fixed – Not Flexible
There is a need to maintain a steady pace throughout the course to ensure individual subjects run smoothly together and to avoid knowledge gaps due to some areas of learning lagging behind.

Moments of assessment: Fixed – Not Flexible
Again – this is mainly to train for timely work in the industry.

Topics of the course: Some choice / options – Medium
There are option areas within the course, this also allows for part time students wishing to only study one or two subjects per year.

Sequence of different parts of the course: Some variability allowed – Medium
There are some areas of the course that can be varied (again beneficial to part time students), but to avoid the previously mentioned knowledge gaps this is only done when really necessary.

Orientation of the course: Mixed, to suit the subject matter and institutional constraints – Medium
This course is a true mix of practical and theory, although for true practical consideration, further assessment for the New Zealand Diploma in Engineering Practice is encouraged.

Key learning materials of the course: Students able to choose from a wide variety of sources – Very Flexible
There are no real fixed materials, students may choose a source that they feel is best suited to them.

Assessment standards and completion requirements: Fixed – Not Flexible
The assessment standards are fixed to the national NZDE board requirements.

Entry Requirements
Conditions for participation: A range of proofs of prior learning is accepted and accredited – Medium
48 NCEA credits at level 2 in four subjects including 12 in mathematics OR equivalent qualifications/ skills/ experience.

Instructional approach and resources
Social organisation of learning: Some degree of choice and combination allowed – Medium
Students have the option of working in groups or as individuals as they see fit. This will benefit all students giving them the option which best suits their own learning.

Language to be used during the course : One language – Not Flexible
English is the only language used on the course, international students are expected to be able to understand enough English to complete the course. English is the most commonly used language in engineering, so the students need to learn English terms to be able to communicate internationally on engineering matters.

Learning resources: Most courses now have online component…. – Medium
This course makes use of Moodle, Facebook and many software applications.

Instructional organisation of learning: Fixed – Not Flexible
Again governed by the national NZDE board.

Delivery and logistics
Time and place where contact with instructor and other students occur: Some flexibility, within limits – Medium
Generally fixed class time, although there are many opportunities for students to have one on one time or support from other students to help out. Facebook and Moodle are used to keep in contact and ask questions at any time for fairly rapid response.

Methods, technology for obtaining support and making contact: Wider range…. – Medium
Again, Facebook and Moodle are used to keep in contact and ask questions at any time for fairly rapid response.

Types of help, communication available, technology required: Peer, academic and administrative support…. – Medium
Many support services, peer tutors, technicians, lecturers available for additional learning .

Location: Blended – Medium
Some course content can be self-taught or with guidance online and assessment material submitted electronically.

Delivery channels for course information, content, communication: Mixture of face to face, on-line – Medium
Again, Facebook and Moodle are used to keep in contact and ask questions at any time for fairly rapid response.

Not Flexible
Very Flexible
Entry Requirements
Instructional Approach and Resources
Delivery and Logistics


I believe this evaluation shows that this course is of medium flexibility, I also believe this course is probably as flexible as it can get due to constraints set by the NZDE board and OP polices. This course is very flexible for part timers, and for those who do not have the formal requirements for entry but do have a solid related work background. There is probably scope to make more content available online, but there will always be a high degree of ‘hands on’ work required by students. These students will have to face the real world to make use of their qualification, so if they are always separated from the hands on experiences by making too much of the course online, they will have a disadvantage when they are expected to preform after being awarded the NZDE with the OP accreditation, this has potential to give OP the “qualification out of the Weetbix box’ reputation.

The one thing I would like to improve and have received CAPEX funding for in my area of this course is to build 3D models to help simulate industry control systems. Currently students need to imagine these scenarios as they program the control systems which must be difficult for them considering most do not have industry experience. I am hoping the building of these models will help the students understand the types of sensors and devices used in the real world and see how they react in the control systems. I intend to have these models completed by the start of 2015 for the next cohort of students entering this course.