Nice birthday present

I spent the last days in Munich and attented the JURE pre-conference of EARLI. The acronym stands for Junior Researchers (JURE) of the European Association for Research in Learning and Instruction (EARLI).

I had the pleasure to present a Round Table on my PhD topic which currently has the working title “Enhancing teachers’ Assessment for Learning practices”. Since the first submission round was actually quite a while ago (end of October 2012!), there was some change in my presentation (and also in the working title which was “Self-determined learning in the 21st Century Classroom” back then). But I guess that is the process of the PhD – change here and there every once in a while…

Nevertheless, I was nominated for Best Round Table Award of JURE 2013 and therefore had quite some interested people in my presentation and I actually managed to convince them of my work and my presentation style and really got awarded for that.

I am very pleased and happy because not only did I get that Award – no – it was also given to me on my birthday. What a nice present 🙂

For those interested in the Round Table handout:

2013-08-23 JURE Handout_final_v5

Learn how to code

I am thinking about learning how to code for a while now. Yes, I took computer sciences as a minor subject during my study and yes, I learned a bit Java programming but that is just too long ago now. To be honest, I don’t really know if I remember anything of that because I did not use it for about 5 years now.

So, today I found this awesome Codecademy website which offers courses for programming languages and I signed in for Javascript because it is one of the most popular programming languages right now and seems to be quite easy to learn if you have an understanding for the logic behind it (and I assume I have that).

I already finished the first unit with the basics and I hope that I will find the time to go through all 12 units. Maybe I really can do some programming then – there are enough ideas 😉

Many visualizations lead to self-determination: Facilitation of Reflection and Feedback with the help of Open Learner Models

Well, again it has been awfully quiet around here (for a year again, wow, time is flowing fast). Why can’t I get this running.


Today, I came back from a very interesting conference for young academics in Germany. To be more precise: for young German academics who are using digital media to facilitate learning processes.

This means, there was a bunch of computer scientist, pedagogues and others who are interested in this field.

It was my first “real” conference and I am totally thrilled. It was amazing. I had the opportunity to present my research (which is still a bit fuzzy) and received very valuable feedback on it.

I came to the opinion that it is time to frame the title a bit more because I – once again – had the impression that the title “Self-determined learning in the 21st century classroom” might be a bit misleading. Although, of course, this is the long term goal: Facilitate self-determined learning in schools with digital media and therefore provide students with the ability to become life long learners.

But due to the fact that I will focus on the facilitation of reflection and feedback strategies and competencies, I see that I should frame it in this direction.

My aim is to develop a concept for professional teacher development which helps teachers to facilitate reflection competencies and feedback processes in both teachers and students and test this concept. Ah, and of course, there are digital media involved.

To be more precise: Open Learner Models (OLM) which we develop within the Next-TELL project.

Okay, it was not my aim today to precisely describe what my current status is in here (I am not sure about that myself, so it is kind of hard to say). But I would like to reflect a bit myself so that I might have the chance the re-live my thoughts once again when I need to.

I already described my conclusion 1: Find another title!

Therefore, I thought a bit today and came to the conclusion that I might use the working title my colleague and I used at the EduCamp in Hamburg in April this year.

This would be: “Many visualizations lead to self-determination” (I really like this as a catchy phrase) but of course that is still not very precise and kind of confusing. So, I decided to add a subtitle: “Facilitation of Reflection and Feedback with the help of Open Learner Models”. Yeah, I think that is a better fit as a working title. Still confusing but not that misleading any more.

I still have the self-determination aspect (which is at this stage kind of important to me) and I already set the focus a bit more.

My second conclusion today was that it is hard to describe the potential benefit of the OLM to an audience that has never heard of it before (especially if you just have round about 10 minutes for that in which you have to put all the other stuff as well). And I understand that very well because to them it seems that this is just another tool that looks nice and has a lot of functions. But new tools always mean more work to figure it out. And as we all know: Time is something that no one really has any more these days. And as another add-on: What about sustainability? We develop the tool with all the other great guys in the project until next year… and then… will it still be there? For me it is clear that it will remain for at least another two years. But how can I proof that to the audience respectively to teachers who I would like to working with it?

And there was also a third conclusion which was not really my conclusion but more the conclusion of the audience: Your dissertation project is huge. And yes, I know that. But I am not fully convinced (yet?) that it is too big. Hope to soon figure that out.

So, what am I doing with that now? I am of course still thinking about the things I heard today. Not alone about the feedback I received but also about the work the other academics presented.

In general, I had great talks there and lots and lots of input. Maybe I need to sleep about that to become more clear about the next steps.


Idea for my PhD

It is quite difficult to find the right thing for your PhD thesis. Ideally, it should fascinate you for the next (few) years.

I needed some time to find “the right path” (and still looking out for that) but I think I am now on a very good way. I am thinking about an heutagogical approach for teachers’ education and teachers’ professional development. How is it possible for teachers to foster and facilitate students’ self-directed/self-determined learning with the help of ICT (and without but mostly with – at least I hope so ;)).

Getting Things Done with Evernote

The first tool, I would like to review in the sequence of Getting Things Done, is Evernote:

Yeah, actually not a GTD tool but something to keep your notes and thoughts organized. We used Evernote for quite a while with shared notebooks to keep us updated with the stuff the other one was doing (we also use a cloud storage service and a lot of Google Docs for that but our ideas and interesting things we found on the web were going to Evernote). Anyway, someday we came up with the idea to use it for GTD and set up a shared notebook. It is a while ago now so I hope I get our “system” back then straight in here.

First of all: the notebook, then we came up with a bunch of tags, like high, medium, low, our names, how long a task might take, percentage of “doneness”, etc. There was the first problem. We thought we could give each entry another tag with the deadline. But unfortunately only the owner of the shared notebook is able to give tags. So, that was out of the picture, because we did not want to put hundreds and hundreds of different deadline tags into EN. Instead we set the date of the note (last change) to the date of the deadline.

At first it was fun with our EN GTD but over the time when we came up with more an more things to be done, it got more and more confusing, because we assigned different tasks to each other and we had to tell the other one so that she knows. EN (again: originally NO getting things done tool and therefore of course without certain GTD specific features – which is totally fine – Evernote is awesome anyway) did not inform you when you got a task.

It really was worth a try to get things done with Evernote. Unfortunately it did not work too well for us. Nevertheless, Evernote is THE note taking tool and it is getting bigger and bigger from day to day – also in the educational sector. But that is another story, maybe I get to that later (this is kind of connected to my everyday work life).

Getting Things Done

Getting Things Done is a hard thing to do. And I do not mean the actual “getting” things done but more the seamless implementation of a getting things done method that really works for you and that fits into your workflow respectively enhances it.

My colleague and I are working on a multinational research project funded by the European Commission (called NEXT-TELL) and we really need to “get things done”. Unfortunately – the different tools we found did not support us the way we need it.

Over the months we tried round about seven tools (I was not really counting and the order I will take to present our reviews of the respective tool is not the one in which we tried them) which could help us to implement our GTD strategy.

To get this first: Our solution now (and the one that really worked best for us so far) is “Wunderkit” by the 6Wunderkinder.

So, for all of you out there still seeking for a solution of their own – and believe me I know that this is a tough one – here are our trials and errors. Maybe it will help anybody because they were all good in their ways but always missing a feature we definitely needed:

  • Getting Things Done with Evernote
  • Getting Things Done with Asana (not here yet)
  • Getting Things Done with Wunderlist  (not here yet)
  • Getting Things Done with Things (not here yet)
  • Getting Things Done with Producteev (not here yet)
  • Getting Things Done with Omnifocus (not here yet)
  • Getting Things Done with Wunderkit (not here yet)

Getting serious with blogging and twittering – first steps

Okay, I already tried it a few times to start blogging and it never worked out very well. But this time it is different. I am extremely confident that it will work, I do not know why.

Maybe it is because now I am not only reading other peoples blogs but really KNOW actual people (colleagues) who have a blog and that supports me mentally. Seriously – I do not know and I somewhat do not care why I have this feeling that I will now get serious about blogging and twittering as well.

This will be the first real entry apart from my weekly bookmarks from diigo (which can be found on the bookmarks page – wow, that really took me a while until I found out how to manage that…).

I will try to post things which concerns me and my everyday work and PhD life. Yeah, the PhD! Well, I let you know if I know any better where it is leading to. It is still a blurry matter but I am working on that.

My everyday work life is mostly consisting of educational and research stuff because of the EU funded project I work in. It is a lot of work but also a lot of fun.

My interests can be summarized within the buzzwords: andragogy, heutagogy, education, self-determined learning, open educational resources and Personal Learning Environments. I am sure there are some more but these are the ones which came to mind first.

Apart from practicing writing english (which is extremely important for me), my general intend of this blog is to sort and reflect my thoughts and give reports about experiences I made with tools and other stuff. Well, I guess that is all for now.

Content Curation Tools (for school purposes)

  1. Share is a popular curation service. Content can be added either using the bookmarklet to curate content from any public webpage, or you can use the integrated search to add content by simply drag and dropping.
    Mon, Apr 16 2012 18:56:29
  2. First impression from my side. Looks nice.I have had some problems with the bookmarklet (did not function at all) and also with the installed chrome extension. Now it is working and I kind of like it. As soon as the story is saved for the first time the autosave automatically saves every now and then (haven’t figured out whats the frequency). Very good: you do not have to curate the whole site but can choose different aspects of one and the same site. Whole site links are also available.

    As I see it now it is possible to add collaborators.
    I don’t get if all storified pieces are staying forever on your storypad or if it is possible to delete them. Pro on that: You can use them several times.
    Big Plus: A lot of services can be integrated directly.
    signing up only possible with facebook or twitter account (it’s fine with me for I have both but the option for a sign up without these accounts would be nice.
  3. Share Is my favorite online content curation tool so far. Can’t thank Ileane of BasicBlogTips enough for introducing me to this awesome tool. Please follow the link to find out more info.
    Tue, Apr 17 2012 12:40:50
  4. Share
    What Is is a content curation platform, where users can curate information about any topic they want. Once you sign up, you will be able to create a topic of your choice (no limits) and start curating information. The site is geared towards providing users a very quick and easy way to “scoop” any information that you feel is relevant to the topic you have chosen. There are several ways you can do this, the easiest being via a drag and drop tool that you add directly on your browser
    Mon, Apr 16 2012 18:56:29
  5. Share does not stop there. It actually has an important social element, as users can suggest relevant links that they think you may want to include or review. It also allow you to integrate with several social networks (FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), and micro-blogging platforms such as Tumblr. You can also define to integrate information directly on your WordPress site, if you want.
    Tue, Apr 17 2012 12:40:49
  6. Share

    Tue, Apr 17 2012 20:00:00
  7. First of all: Nice user interface. But actually not really what we are looking for in context of schools. Otherwise it is a nice application. You “curate” whole sites to your curated topics and can add a description. It also has a integration of several social networks (but this seems to be something all of the curation tools have).

    Very nice: RSS feed – this could be quite handy for teachers.
  8. Share
    CurationSoft (aff link) is the only desktop software that I am currently aware of and I love using it. The free version is fully functional and is only limited to “Google’s Blog Search” to source for content. More info in this post – Content Curation, The Next Big Thing?.
    Tue, Apr 17 2012 12:40:50
  9. This is a download software which has to be installed. This alone is kind of a knockout for schools so I won’t test it further at this place.
  10. Share is a simple way to “bundle” and share web content easily. You can sign in with your Twitter account.
    Mon, Apr 16 2012 18:57:14
  11. Share

    Tue, Apr 17 2012 20:00:00
  12. User interface is okay, chrome extension for clipping works excellent but you can only clip 350 characters otherwise you have to clip the whole page. You can add notes to the different clips and invite collaborators. Making a curation private is only available for premium users.
    Plus: RSS feed

    sign up only possible with twitter, facebook or googleaccount.

  13. Share is rising very fast in the daily content aggregation tool arena. Discover, organize, and share everything you like on the web. Has the ability to share across a number of platforms.
    Tue, Apr 17 2012 12:40:50
  14. Share

    Tue, Apr 17 2012 20:00:00
  15. Looks at first very interesting because the interface is totally different to the other ones. Its based on the analogy of a tree. Big downside here: you are not able to “clip” different selections of the same site only the whole site. So from my bundle of selections I just got one pearl – this is a bit disappointing. Also there seems to be no way to make your trees private.For school purposes and the things we are thinking of it is unfortunately not the right tool although it looks very interesting.sign up only possible with twitter, facebook or googleaccount.
  16. Conclusion

    I think from this content curator tools, Storify seems to be the best option when working in schools within the scenarios we have in mind so far. It is free, I can decide who has the right to edit my “stories”, I can write “something” around my collected artifacts (also can the “edit partners” – although they there seems to be no option to make that visible) – this can also be interpreted as a kind of commenting on links or cites (maybe one should come up with a special text formatting for comments, bold/italic for instance), put in pictures, links, one ore more cites from one or different websites or whole websites (what that looks like see below).
  17. The user interface is quite handy. From my point of view it is within schools necessary that it is possible to make curations private resp. share only with a bunch of people. Students should feel comfortable posting things and have control over who has access to it apart from their teacher.

    Biggest downsides as I see it: You have to have a facebook or twitter account otherwise you are not able to sign up.
    Minor downside: the formatting of headings isn’t the best – when copy/paste new text in the formatting of the header disappears.
    Oh – I just got an idea. Maybe its possible to copy/paste or even export the “whole” story one created and put it into gDocs, in that way it would be a) tracable for our progress tracker and b) “commentable” in the way we like it 🙂
    Edit to this: Unfortunately the export is only available when the “Story” is already published – that’s not the best solution for schools. The other thing: Export to wordpress blogs, tumblr, posterous, mailchimp possible – that’s great, but no export to gDocs.

Organisation des (digitalen) Alltags

Wieder einmal stelle ich fest, dass ich mich in der Organisation meines digitalen Alltags sehr schwer tue. Es muss irgendwie alles ineinander passen, am besten miteinander kompatibel sein. Eine einzelne Software, die alles kann wäre mir am liebsten. Etwas für die Literaturverwaltung der Diss, ein kompatibles Bloggingsystem, dass nicht nur meine Gedankenschnipsel aufnimmt, sondern im Idealfall auch Platz für Exzerpte und dergleichen bietet, die dann wiederum mit meiner Literaturverwaltung Hand in Hand gehen. Ich habs jetzt erst einmal auf drei Tools herunterbrechen können (eigentlich vier, wenn man den Firefox mitrechnet, der mein Leben dann doch irgendwie einfacher gestaltet durch seine wunderbaren AddOns).

  • Mendeley (wird sich erst im Laufe der Zeit zeigen, wie gut ich damit zurechtkomme)
  • Evernote
  • WordPress

Die ersten beiden wurden mir empfohlen, ich kannte beide auch schon. Mendeley habe ich nie zuvor genutzt. Positiv fiel mir aber erst einmal die Bibtexintegration auf, die für mich als Latexnutzer natürlich unablässig für eine Literaturverwaltung ist.
Nun ja. letztlich noch nicht ideal und zufrieden bin ich noch nicht 100%ig, aber ich stehe ja gerade am Anfang des Ganzen. Vielleicht ist das auch der Grund, warum ich momentan soviel Zeit damit verbringe ein gutes Organisationssystem zu finden. Ich weiß auch gar nicht genau, was mich an meiner bisherigen Organisation so stört. Ich hätte gerne alles digital, aber trotzdem mag ich meine Handschrift sehr (vielleicht bietet hier Evernote mit seiner Schnappschussfunktion die passende Schnittstelle). Ich weiß nicht einmal, warum ich diesen Eintrag so verfasse, als würde ihn irgendjemand lesen (habe ja schließlich meinen Blog als privat markiert, was an sich eine kleine Perversität darstellt).
Egal, ich nutze das hier für mich zur Reflexion und ich gebe die Hoffnung nicht auf, dass sich auf kurz oder lang für mich ein PLE oder ePortfolio entwickelt und ich irgendwann doch den Zugang erlaube.
Und vielleicht find ich ja auch noch raus, wie ich mit ScribFire Tags vergeben kann, das wäre ein kleiner Schritt für mich zu eine, glücklichen Feierabend, dann war der Tag nicht ganz verloren, denn außer lesen war ich leider nicht sonderlich produktiv.

Personal Learning Environments

Mittlerweile gibt es ja schon ziemlich viel im www zu PLEs zu finden. Und obwohl mir das Konzept an sich ziemlich klar ist und ich auch eine sehr konkrete Vorstellung von meiner eigenen PLE habe, so macht mir doch immer die Frage nach der Zielgruppe zu schaffen.

Muss bzw. kann es die im klassisch verstandenen Sinne geben? Kann ich jemandem eine PLE aufzwingen? Wohl eher kaum. Letztlich hat jeder seine eigene PLE, die dann aber eben anders zusammengesetzt ist, als die, die ich mir selbst erschaffen habe. Und das bringt ja auch das Personal Learning Environment so mit sich, dass es eben persönlich gestaltet ist.

Dann können doch aber die Versuche einer bewussten Implementierung einer PLE (die dann auch noch gewisse Rahmenbedingungen mit sich bringt) in einer formalen Situation nicht funktionieren.

Des Weiteren stelle ich mir die Frage, wie man eine PLE konkret nutzen kann, um eine Wissensgemeinschaft zu vernetzen? Die Antwort scheint zunächst trivial einfach und doch dreht mein Kopf sich seit Stunden um sich selbst. Klar ist für mich und meine persönliche Vernetzung, dass Tools wie delicious, Feedreader und Co zum Einsatz kommen.

Macht es denn auch Sinn mehrere PLEs miteinander zu verknüpfen und so eine konkrete Kollaboration zu unterstützen? Oder würde das diesem sehr offenen Konzept widersprechen? Eine PLE ist vor allem für mich selbst gedacht, ich vernetze meine PLE dann unter Umständen mit den PLEs anderer (bzw. wohl eher mit Teilen dieser).

Ich spinne hier einfach ein bisschen herum, nutze also einfach mein Chaos an Gedanken (welches ich ab heute dann auch offiziell als Erweiterung meiner PLE ansehen möchte), um vielleicht auf längere Sicht ein wenig Klarheit zu erlangen. Ich habe mich inzwischen viel mit Personal Learning Environments beschäftigt und mir seinerzeit die Frage gestellt, ob man sie zur Förderung von selbstorganisiertem Lernen nutzen kann.

Und jetzt sitze ich vor einem Vortragsversuch und stelle mir die Frage, was genau ich denn betrachten will. Man wird sehen. Soweit erstmal mein erster Gedankenwust. Hoffentlich schaffe ich die Integration in meine PLE, vielleicht ist es ja ganz nützlich.