Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Halfway thru day 1 of #blend14

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It’s halfway through day 1 of #blend14 and there are two main things I want to share:

First, I attended a session on formative assessment and I wanted to share the resources they shared with us here (I got permission to tweet this, so thought I could also blog it). The chat for that session was invaluable to me because some of the participants were talking about different ways of giving audio/video feedback and I’ve been working with a couple of language-learning faculty who are exploring different options for this for their blended courses – so it was perfect timing. It was good to see some tools I already knew about, but also to hear about new ones, or ones I knew used in new ways. The actual presentation was also good (but as I said, I only attended small parts). I really look forward to exploring in more depth, for example, the resources on how to make MCQs test higher order thinking skills. I know it’s doable because I’ve had such tests done unto me, but have never thought of designing MCQs that way myself (mainly because I never test my students anyway, but it might be nice to do it for formative stuff and for fun, even).

Second, the keynote by Mark Milliron on Learner Analytics. If you’re not at the conference, you can watch the YouTube interview with Mark over here  about Learner Analytics (also embedded below)

I only attended part of the keynote address, but I was really impressed with the above interview, much of which was expanded upon in the keynote address (I’m also about to attend another session by him and a few others). Btw, you can also check out more at http://www.civitaslearningspace.com

Key thing for me is: I was skeptical about learner analytics before. I actually love playing around with numbers, and I love maths, but I usually don’t find numerical data helpful in understanding complex things social phenomena like learning. But listening to Mark talk, how he frames it, way key to changing my mind, getting me curious to know more.

Mainly: he talks about the need for “action analytics”  – using the data to help faculty, advisers and students act early in order to help students succeed; rather than how they’re usually used for policy-making, accountability, etc., in ways that do not trickle down to students in any positive way. He also talks in the YouTube video about the importance of combining learner analytics with qualitative data in order to get a bigger picture – that’s really important to me, because I’m always concerned that people who stare too hard at the numbers ignore the contextual details that do not translate into numbers.

One little thing nagging at me as I listened to Mark talk about how Amazon understands and learns our preferences to help us pick our next book to buy… it reminded me of the latest facebook scandal, where they’ve been experimenting with influencing user emotions by modifying their feeds… and I think others probably have ethical concerns about learner analytics as well. I need to listen to the full talk, and now I’m attending a session with Mark as one of the speakers again so maybe it’ll come up again… will report when I’ve thought this through properly.

Off to that session now… the twitter stream is reaaaaally quiet in #blend14 compared to #et4online (no one was tweeting during keynote! weird)

I forgot in the midst of Ramadan (unfortunately missed Laura Pasquini’s session!!!) that I was planning to try live-blogging this conference, #blend14… but I’ll try it next time. In the meantime, I’ll post this short one with some of the key things I’ve learned so far. I’ve only been able to attend the second half of a workshop and the first half of the keynote, what with Ramadan and a cranky sleepless toddler who finally went to sleep 🙂

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