Understanding Challenges

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Lately I’ve been following along with P2PU by the mailing list as I haven’t been able to commit to Thursday’s  calls.  This has allowed for some deeper reflection slightly external to the core community.

I’ve been chewing over the idea of the P2PU Challenge model for the past weeks, trying to work out how it fits in amongst people, online facilitation and social peer-education.  Challenges was once just a School of Webcraft experiment, but gradually they are expanding in popularity as an approach to be used more broadly across P2PU.

Chloe‘s going to be constructing another great post about challenges, but I wanted to write about my understanding of P2Pu Challenges from a community member’s perspective.

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The way I see Challenges is that they provide a focus for what is being learnt, i.e. the instructional materials / course design side of a P2PU learning experience, and bring content creation to the fore. You come to P2PU to learn by completing a challenge in the company of others (in a course or more openly and casually). You might also come to create Challenges or support other people’s learning by facilitating Challenges (your own or others’).

The Challenge acts as the focus or framing of a learning experience in which the objectives, activities and output / assessment components are included.   Challenges go beyond defining goals, objectives and milestones and consider learning design in a specific P2PU context:

  • they highlight the need for online peer-interaction
  • reinforce formative, peer-supported assessment
  • recognise that Challenges can make use of existing learning materials whether they be YouTube tutorials or complete OER courses.
Orange Hopscotch - (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) Some rights reserved by mkw87

Orange Hopscotch by mkw87 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Challenges also make the act of designing a P2PU learning experience more public and open, and a specific activity that can then be expanded upon socially and with focus within the context of a course.  Until now the course design process has never been a particularly collaborative or public activity, but has been obscured behind the “Start Your Own” course button.  The site interface and Course Designers’ Handbook have previously tried to encourage course creators to include and consider these design principles, but not so prominently.

Challenges share many similar elements with instructional and learning design, but the Challenge “model” is a much more consumable and far less boring entry point for people who wouldn’t otherwise consider the ADDIE model or similar when designing a course.

In fact, Challenges act as a very specific entry point and invitation into the P2PU learning space and community. By making the creation of a high-quality Challenge a goal in itself, it is easier to engage people in discussing and working towards developing high quality online peer-learning materials.

By clarifying that Challenges are about learning materials (specific to  peer learning online) I’ve been able to move past a stumbling block, a hesitation that I’ve felt about Challenges and where they fit in with P2PU.  That has to do with the act of content creation and the previous reluctance of P2Pu to identify itself as a site for the production of educational resources.

Previously, I don’t feel that the idea of useful and quality content was seen as a distinct priority or outcome of involvement in P2PU. Sure, P2PU’s user content was placed under a default CC-BY-SA license, but content that arose as a by-product of peer-learning, eg. comments from course participants or slightly remixed OER materials.

Challenges mean that P2PU is now encouraging educational content creation as a specific goal and activity for users. It’s important that this is seen and publicly identified as a new, distinct and potentially valuable process within P2Pu – open collaborative learning material development (making context specific OER, not just “learning with others”).

In general, after some initial scepticism, I’m finding this very exciting. Of course it raises some further questions:

  • If some challenges end up being very good, how might they be used outside of P2PU?
  • How could materials be exported (Worksheets, Course activity books)?
  • Is this an opportunity for income generation – receive printed versions of “authenticated” challenges (Kickstarter?)??
  • Could individual Challenge creators use P2PU as a marketplace for their content?
  • Will the existing license be appropriate for Challenges as they evolve?
  • Challenges highlight that learning design for collaborative online learning is a specific context – What is the process for upgrading and remixing existing, formal OER from a traditional delivery to a P2PU style?
  • How could a collaborative Challenge design process be facilitated?
  • If Challenges make  content for peer-learning online, is there a similar process or thing which helps build a good, cohesive cohort of learners?  What would that look like?

I’d love to hear about your understanding of Challenges and ideas of where they might be headed. Please leave a comment.

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School of Webcraft Update – Study Groups, Badges and Derbys! Oh My!

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School of Webcraft has a new home!

As part of the P2PU community, the School of Webcraft made the transition to our new, custom built Lernanta platform last weekend. Hooray!

From all of us here at School of Webcraft we’d like to thank P2PU’s Technical Lead, Zuzel and our amazing team of volunteer contributors for all their hard work so far. We’re looking forward to all the great new features to come!

Got an idea of how to make the School of Webcraft’s new pages rock?
Let us know your ideas in the Webcraft discussion list!

Join, Branch, or Create a New Group

So far, over 25 groups and courses have been setup on the new School of Webcraft site and range from learners asking for help as they program for the first time, through to more formal courses and structured study groups:

Remember, the content for all groups on P2PU are always open to explore, even if you’re not a participant and the group is already full. If you really like what a group is learning, you can make your own version of it, invite participants and create your own versions of existing tasks to work through together.

To find out more about creating groups and making your own branch of an existing group, watch this screencast on Creating a Study Group at P2PU.

Help review our upcoming School of Webcraft badges

Along with the Mozilla Open Badges project we’re working on the 2nd phase in our pilot phase of web developer badges. Erin, our badge lead has written up the draft badge criteria and now we need you to review them.

To give feedback on the draft criteria for badges on HTML, CSS, Popcorn.js, HTML5 and CSS3 visit Erin’s blog post.

Learn cool new web technologies and enter the MDN Dev Derby!

MDN is the codename of our friends over at Mozilla Developers Network.

  • MDN run the Hacks blog featuring cool things built with Mozilla Firefox and the open web.
  • They curate the Mozilla Docs Centre: one of the best technical resources for Web Developers ever.
  • And now, every month they’re running the Dev Derby – a web demo competition!

In July the Dev Derby is focused on HTML5 . MDN curated great resources about the new video features which would be perfect as the basis for a School of Webcraft study group. We’d love to see some School of Webcraft participants get their demos featured in July’s derby!

To get started learning and preparing your HTML5 demo for a chance to win some pretty wicked prizes from MDN, create a study group. Remember to check out MDN for the documentation and learning resources you’ll need for your group.

Get Involved

There are lots of great ways to get involved with School of Webcraft and help build our community of web developers.

  • Start a learning project at School of Webcraft
    It’s easy, just create a P2PU account and follow the prompts.
  • Got a question about School of Webcraft?
    Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Join the Webcraft Discussion List
    To participate in ongoing discussions about the project, sign-up here.
  • Dying to just hack?
    Learn more at the Contributing to Lernanta group.
    Submit a bug on the tracker
    Contribute to the code at Github

Do you have some exciting news, or a request for help we should be sharing in our Webcraft updates? Don’t keep it a secret, let us know!

This (and all P2PU mailings) are licensed under CC BY-SA. Please feel free to translate it and share it with your friends!

School of Webcraft Update May 24th 2011

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Twice a month we bring you updates on School of Webcraft, Mozilla‘s free web-development training community organised in partnership with Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU). We also use this update to let you know about the great new features that have been released in P2PU’s new site.

School of Webcraft's new home at P2PU
School of Webcraft’s new home at P2PU!

If you can’t find a study group or course that suits your needs, get involved and create your own! Our community of passionate web developers is here to help you with advice about resources and useful tasks to learn your topic.

New P2PU Feature – “Branch” from an existing course or study group.

P2PU is almost ready for the final transition to its custom-developed Lernanta platform.  The P2PU Dev community has been updating content and adding features to make this transition easier for all learners.

Screenshot - hot to Import a past School of Wecraft Course
Import a past School of Webcraft Course

2nd Phase of the School of Webcraft Badge Pilot

Together with P2PU, Mozilla is working on Open Badges, a framework that tracks your learning achievements.  Our first focus for this new technology is providing peer-assessed badges for Web Developers.

Group Spotlight – HTML and CSS from the Beginning

Jamie Curle’s running a great course about HTML and CSS from the Beginning. He’s writing HTML in his greenhouse and making ordered lists of meat.

Next week we’ll be interviewing Jamie to learn more about his reasons for getting involved with School of Webcraft and to find out his tips for organising an exciting project.

If you know of some exciting School of Webcraft news we should be reporting – let us know!

Need advice? Want to get the most out of School of Webcraft and P2pU?

Take a look at the Help Desk group on the new site for answers to any questions you may have about participating in P2PU, and regular updates about the new site’s features.

Get Involved

There are lots of great ways to get involved with School of Webcraft and help build our community of web developers.

  • Start a learning project at School of Webcraft
    It’s easy, just create a P2PU account and follow the prompts.
  • Got a question about School of Webcraft?
    Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Join the Webcraft Discussion List
    To participate in ongoing discussions about the project, sign-up here.

  • Dying to just hack?
    Learn more at the Contributing to Lernanta group.
    Submit a bug on the trackerContribute to the code at Github

This (and all P2PU mailings) are licensed under CC BY-SA. Please feel free to translate it and share it with your friends!

Blogging and Writing For The Web: Meeting Notes (May 13th)

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I just helped facilitate the first synchronous meeting for the Blogging and Writing For The Web (B&W4TW) study group, and I think it went really well, great in fact.  I previously organised a basic web development course at P2PU, but until recently had no opportunity to organise a non-Webcraft project. This is a great opportunity to learn something new, improve my existing skills and to put some ideas about collaborative online learning into practice.

Blogging and Writing for the Web Study Group activity wall showing comments from group members

Study Group Activity Wall

I started the group at P2PU following a twitter conversation with Laura and Alina.  I wanted to improve my blogging in general and also want to feel more confident about my professional online writing skills within the School of Webcraft project.

Are we forming a study group or a support group?

One of the interesting things that came out of the meeting today was the feeling that B&W4TW acts not only as a study group where we improve our skills, but it also acts as a support group for people who, as Lynn described it, are “sole practitioners“.

We identified that we wanted to create an ongoing group that will continue to give value to participants even if the founding members feel confident enough to “graduate” and leave the group. Blackstar mentioned that as blogging is an online process where you can always improve, it’s difficult to identify what the conditions of study group completion would be.

Hacking Open Space Techniques and Bringing Them to the “Web”

This meeting allowed me to run an online hack of a facilitation technique that I’ve experienced in several open-space style events and which Etherpad seemed suited for.

Participants are invited to brainstorm the topics they wish to talk about (within the framing of the meeting), write it on post-it notes (1 idea per post-it!) and then their notes are shared on a large wall. The second stage of the process invites participants to sort through the ideas, find common themes and create category titles for the groupings, thereby identifying common interests across the group.

Is there a name for this technique? Leave a comment and any relevant links please!

This blogging study group meeting seemed the perfect place to test these ideas out. We met using the live chat tool Voxli and kept notes in Etherpad. We could identify common goals and issues we wanted to work through with the group and then use these shared issues as a way of identifying tasks that we can respond to within the P2PU Study Group. We spent about 5 minutes identifying our personal goals, another 5 minutes sorting them out and then spent 10 minutes or so working on tasks for the major categories we identified.

I made a screencast of the process in Etherpad – please excuse the demo watermark!

5 people participated in this process and it worked quite well. Working with a larger group would be difficult and one way I’d consider hacking the process would be to invite only 2 or 3 people to sort the ideas into groups. In a physical space it’s possible to talk with each other in the sorting process and to collaborate on group names – this is much harder to do online.

In general though, I think that this is a very valuable exercise for P2PU learning groups to work through at the beginning of their life-cycle. It identifies shared learning goals and gives everyone a part to play in the development of the group.

What we ended up with

We’re planning to meet again next Friday at the same time and next week someone else will take the role of primary facilitator.  We also recognised that the meeting time was difficult for those outside of Europe and East-Coast USA and encouraged members out of these time-zones to setup their own meetings if possible. We identified a list of key areas to work on in the group and have started creating tasks based on work we did in the meeting.

If you’re interested in participating in the Blogging and Writing For The Web study group, we’d love to have you join in! It’s easy, just create a P2PU account and sign-up to the group!

Learn almost anything to do with the open web

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One of the things that I love most about Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU) is the  support for both practical, career-oriented courses such as Copyright for Educators and the slightly more offbeat, interest driven courses like an Introduction to Cyberpunk Literature. We provide open, free access and new opportunities to learn core skills for people’s professional practice, but the peer-driven nature of P2PU’s community learning environment also brings people together around more obscure topics they’re incredibly passionate about and which aren’t taught in most traditional universities. I like to think that we’re providing access to the “Long Tail of Learning”.

The idea of learning style, access and choice that P2PU encourages is something that’s communicated quite well in the tag-line: “Learning for everyone, by everyone, about almost anything“. As a content department within P2PU, the School of Webcraft also supports both core, web-development skills targeted at a general audience and targeted niche topics that only interest a passionate subset of developers. We can just take the P2PU tag line and amend it to say:

“Learning for everyone, by everyone, about almost anything to do with open web development

We do have some rough guidelines that help us define what are the “almost anythings” that can be learnt in the School of Webcraft:

  • Courses should be relevant to web development practice and explore either practical skills or background knowledge.
  • Project output should run natively in a browser (without plugins) and be supported by open server technology.
  • Skill development should explore open and standards-based web technologies
  • Participants should be able to freely and openly access learning materials
    • course content, tutorials and videos shouldn’t be hidden behind a paywall.
  • Technologies used to implement course activities should be freely and openly accessible
    • participants shouldn’t need to rely on proprietary software or source code
  • A course idea can be as small as exploring a question about the open web.
  • Course organisers don’t need to be experts, but they do need to be passionate about their topic and willing to organise their course and facilitate others in a shared learning journey.

Based on these guidelines we’ve already had proposals for some amazing courses including PHP Web Application Security, jQuery~For the Love of DollarPHP, Databases and the OpenWeb, Alt Text & Universal Design and From GIMP to xHTML and CSS.

If you’ve been following our twitter feed (#webcraft) you’ll have also seen that we’re looking for people to run practical courses in JavaScript and Accessibility that will have assessment support to a very topical course exploring “The Technology of WikiLeaks”. You can even choose to take over the facilitation of  a course that ran in  September’s pilot round of the School of Webcraft.

We’re still accepting proposals from volunteer organisers for January’s courses, so no matter how obscure, fascinating, practical or tedious they may be, we’d love to hear your course idea.

On having to choose participants

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I’ve just been working through the applications made for the Web Development 101 course that I’m running as part of the pilot round of the School of Webcraft.

Wow.

I’ve got applications from a range of people from locations as diverse as  USA, South Africa and Senegal who spend their time as pastors, students, educators, musicians, translators. The one thing that they have in common is that they all want to learn web development, whether it’s to develop a website for their business, to communicate better with their community, or because they want to start working towards a full-time career within the industry.

I’m feeling a little overwhelmed though, when I made the shortlist of applicants who’ll be able to participate in video seminars, I had twice the number of people I felt comfortable directly teaching.   In the end I chose people whose energy and enthusiasm for the topic and who were eager to share their learning with others:

As I read through everyone’s descriptions I think there is a lot to be learned from other people’s projects…

I am aspiring to get into the web design / development world and I think this course would prove an invaluable starting point. Please accept my application!

For two months, I have been patiently waiting for this course to enroll :))

I am very interested in meeting and participating with people who are in similar situations, and I am very interested in web standards and Doing It Right™

Luckily though, the P2PU system is flexible enough that people who aren’t able to make it to video seminars can still watch session archives and participate with each other in the forums. Already, the energy within the message board of the Web Development 101 Community is exciting. I’m looking forward to encouraging these discussions and building the greater School of Webcraft community in the longer term.

To put the future into context we had over 300 applications made for the 12 core Webcraft courses on offer within Peer 2 Peer University, and we applicants had just  a week to get their applications in!  I can’t even begin to imagine what this process will be like in 12 months when we reach the end of our initial roadmap – we’re aiming to have 10000 active community members and 250 courses per round!

The future is exciting, but I am so proud of our humble beginning.

Let the learning begin!