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Blog 5 - Lessons learnt and future practice

What are the most important things that I have learnt on the ONL course?   Undoubtedly the value of collaboration.  Somewhat sceptical when I first started (I work most effectively by myself - or so I thought) I was astonished at the creativity unleashed once our team got to know one-another and started working collaboratively.  And I'm sure that in eight weeks we spent on this, we were only scratching the surface in this regard.  Of course, one has to overcome certain fears and uncertainties and also be prepared to share intellectual property, but the rewards could be significant. 
Another important thing I learnt was the amount of tools and apps out there that are actually accessible and doable once you give it a try.  I know a little bit about these things, and have used them, but my perspective on their potential applications has changed a lot.  Twitter is one:  I've avoided Twitter because I'm mostly old school and I'd rather keep quiet than mouth off at 140 charact…
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Blog 4 - Reflections on design for online and blended learning

Over the past two weeks I have been doing quite a bit of reflection on the topic of designing and supporting for online learning.  As Varsity College, the institution that I work for, moves resolutely forward with its agenda for the promotion of teaching & learning in the online environment, I realise that it is necessary to bite the bullet and get serious about this matter as an integral and permanent part of my teaching practice.    
I have already in past introduced some aspects of technology into my teaching - small things such as playing relevant YouTube videos to my Legal History students (great content there on Roman battles and Romans doing all sorts of historically important things), or exploring, together with my students, the United Nations’ online repository of international legal instruments. 
Obviously some classes (subjects) lend themselves to these sort of activities more than others do.  The two subjects mentioned above lend themselves to this sort of exploratory …

Blog 3 - reflections on networked learning and collaboration

This week’s Economist magazine describes how, in 1982 Fraser Mustard, a doctor, founded the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) as a 'university without walls', in which researchers could work across disciplines.  CIFAR encouraged its fellows to share their best ideas – often without much reward - rather than guarding them jealously.  The result has been strong development in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other technologies in Canada, with profitable results and making that country one of the world's leaders in AI and associated technologies.[1]
The story got my attention because I have been thinking a lot about the topic we are currently working on in our PBL group.  Veering between enthusiasm and a fair bit of scepticism, I wasn’t sure (still am not completely, I have to admit) if networked learning and collaboration are everything they are cracked up to be. 
Borrowing from the ‘restaurant’ (À la carte v Buffet) theme we were working on in our group, it st…

Blog 2 - Reflections on openness in academia: Open or closed or too early to tell?

Some years ago I heard about the OER (Open Educational Resources) initiative launched by MIT (see for example https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/physics/8-282j-introduction-to-astronomy-spring-2006/).  For several years after I was an avid follower of MIT's open-courseware programmes, but mostly in a casual and dilettantish sort of way.  Nevertheless I did learn a lot and it was an invaluable experience.  Recently I discovered the research reports (academic articles) published by the anthropologists and geologists who had discovered and are exploring the fossilized remains of Homo naledi, a new species of the genus Homo discovered in the Rising Star complex of caves near Johannesburg in South Africa in 2013.  These reports are all freely available in the open access journal e-life sciences (for example at https://elifesciences.org/articles/09560).  Dedicated reading of these fascinating articles can nurture the amateur anthropologist or geologist in anyone who has enough interest in this…

Blog 1 – Digital literacy and online participation – reflecting on the past two weeks

In the course of Topic 1 of the ONL172 I have already had to confront several of my own fears and phobias concerning the online world.  Here are three of them: 
Fear & phobia #1:  Not connecting – total technology failure 
An ever-present fear (not being a digital native – see David White’s webinar at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPOG3iThmRI&feature=youtu.be) is not being able to connect at all – or experiencing slow and intermittent connection.  In the class-room this can be very frustrating because of the valuable time lost.  On the ONL172 course my big worry was of being irredeemably left behind and not knowing what was going on. 
Connection to our group meetings was eventually solidified when we moved to Zoom.  And then there was the amazing connection I had on the day I was visiting Durban for a workshop.  In the midst of an astonishing, massive storm (see http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/in-pictures-massive-storm-wreaks-havoc-in-durban-20171010 and on Twitter at …

Introducing myself to my PBL 5 group

Hello everyone, I am a lecturer in the School of Law at Varsity College and fortunate enough to live and work in the beautiful city of Cape Town. I'm particularly interested to learn more about applying digital technologies and collaborative techniques to the learning and teaching of law - both in the class-room and out. Looking forward to getting to know my colleagues on this project.