This week we have been asked to post and blog about one Course artefact that demonstrates competencies or experience we have acquired or developed. According to the Chambers dictionary (online edition) an artefact (or artifact) is:
noun 1 a handcrafted object, eg a tool, a cave painting, etc, especially one that is historically or archaeologically interesting. 2 anything that has been manipulated or self-consciously constructed for a specific purpose, especially if it is subsequently shown to be so • The statistical data was nothing but an election-rigging artefact. 3 something mass-produced and usually cheap • those nasty touristy artefacts.
ETYMOLOGY: 19c: from Latin arte factum, from ars skill + facere to make.
Well, I haven’t done any cave paintings lately but by comparison to some of my colleagues with computer science degrees, I do feel somewhat stone age in my creations. Nonetheless, the whole point of learning is to find out how to do things we don’t already know how to do. The readings for this week refer to the importance of showing your artefact as a teaching/learning resource. When I was developing the artefacts in semester 1, it was the last thing on my mind to consider teaching someone else about these resources. I was too busy struggling to make sense of it all myself. Now of course I can see that my experience at that time has better enabled me to understand the learning problems which my students will face. For example, the feelings of stress (and let’s face it, of inadequacy) which come when everyone else just seems to “get it”and you’re still trying to figure out what “it” is! So with that in mind, I’ll move on to discuss my artefact, a podcast created last semester.
Back in October 2012 I was completely new to the concept of open-source. I had just finished work in a financial services environment where even proprietary software had to be investigated and approved by a variety of departments (IT, Compliance, Legal) before it could be used, social media usage was frowned upon and internet access was a privilege of head office staff. (All of this has to be taken in the context of the financial services environment of course. Bear in mind that financial services institutions are handling your money and consequently are paranoid about fraud, hacking and unauthorised individuals gaining access to your bank accounts). Add to that the fact that my background was in Legal and Compliance roles and consequently open-source software was a massive step outside my comfort zone. Although, admittedly, putting a podcast on iTunes for the whole world to hear, was less traumatic because I assumed that no-one would ever find it (so far I have been right!)
So what did I learn while I was building my podcast? From an materials point of view, I learned about multiple open-source programmes. I used Audacity to do the initial recording and then Podomatic to create the podcast, finally launching the podcast on iTunes. I’m not going to go into the mechanics of how to use the software here except as an illustration of the problems it presented for me as a novice user.
My preferred mode of study is to be given reading materials or notes well in advance of a lecture so that in class I can focus on what the lecturer is saying, rather than having to write notes. This allows me to formulate questions, or do further research where I do not understand a concept. So, in developing a learning programme I would try to include as much material as possible for learners in advance.
I learn better when I am actually shown how to do something, rather than just being told to go off and figure out how to use it by myself. That was one of the key challenges when working with Audacity. We received screencasts giving quick guidance on how to get started but actually translating that into personal interaction with the programme took somewhat longer. Personally I prefer paper notes to screencasts because I can write on them and mark them up where something isn’t clear, something not available when watching a screencast.
I am comfortable enough with computers to know that I can’t break the internet but that doesn’t meant that I understand all the terminology which goes with it. I was frequently frustrated by assumptions that I had an understanding of terminology which in reality I did not have. Luckily, having a laptop meant I could Google the phrase or look at the website being referenced in order to get my head around what was being discussed. However, learning from that, I think a quick assessment of the level of technical and technological understanding of students would be beneficial for any class, so that additional explanations can be included as and when required. It is often difficult for learners to admit openly (or even one-on-one to a lecturer) that they were left behind, or did not understand something that everyone else seems to be getting, so it can be helpful to include what might otherwise be considered as “obvious” explanations.
Returning to my podcast, I learned a lot from the actual experience of developing one from scratch. As I wasn’t comfortable just talking for 5 minutes, I elected to use a poem as my starting point. I had to do some research to identify one which was out of copyright and finally elected to use Clement C. Moore’s “Twas the night before Christmas”. I then overlaid this with music to create a suitably festive background and used a photograph I had taken of St. Stephen’s Green in 201o as the icon. All of this means that I am now much more comfortable with using this type of programme. It is a skill which I will be able to bring with me when I begin working in a library environment. In addition, it brought open-source software to my attention and increased my willingness to experiment with it. These are all attributes which will stand me in good stead as a I progress in my career and I look forward to continuing my learning journey.