So, I asked ChatGPT to write me an “Edtech Review of the Year” and this is what it came up with:
It has been a groundbreaking year for edtech. New technologies and platforms have emerged that are transforming the way we teach and learn. Online learning platforms such as Khan Academy and Coursera have continued to grow in popularity, offering a wide range of courses and educational resources. Meanwhile, virtual and augmented reality technologies have begun to make their way into the classroom, providing new opportunities for immersive and interactive learning.
One of the most significant developments in edtech this year has been the proliferation of artificial intelligence (AI) in education. AI-powered platforms such as OpenAI's Assistant and Google Classroom are making it easier for teachers to personalize instruction and provide individualized support to students. These tools are also helping to automate administrative tasks, freeing up teachers' time to focus on teaching.
Another major trend in edtech this year has been the increased use of mobile devices in the classroom. More and more schools are embracing the use of tablets and smartphones as learning tools, providing students with access to a wealth of information and educational resources at their fingertips. This shift towards mobile learning has also been facilitated by the development of new educational apps and online platforms that are specifically designed for use on mobile devices.
Overall, it has been an exciting year for edtech, and the future looks bright. As new technologies continue to emerge and evolve, we can expect to see even more innovative and effective tools for teaching and learning in the years to come.
What’s notable here are the lack of specifics. It’s pretty good at a generalised summary but very poor at providing the specifics. However, it certainly provides a similar quality of opinion commentary that you sometimes see in online mass article publication platforms so I can certainly see a lot more online opinion pieces being written in this way.
But as Martin Weller notes in his own (human-written?) end of year piece on AI generated content, the threat to the ‘essay’ as an established assessment type is real and something that all levels of education that use essays as an assessment will need to grapple with.
Mmmmm, I wonder how many more blog posts I can write this year using ChatGPT?
So, I asked ChapGPT to “write an article about mixed-modal teaching and hybrid education”. This is what it came up with:
Mixed-modal teaching and hybrid education are two educational approaches that have gained popularity in recent years. These methods combine traditional face-to-face instruction with online learning, allowing students to benefit from the best of both worlds.
Mixed-modal teaching involves using a combination of in-person and online instruction in the classroom. This can include using technology such as video conferencing, online discussion forums, and virtual learning environments to supplement traditional face-to-face teaching. This allows teachers to use a wider range of teaching methods and materials, and gives students more flexibility in how they learn.
Hybrid education, on the other hand, refers to educational programs that combine online and in-person instruction. This can include programs where students spend part of their time in a physical classroom and part of their time learning online, as well as programs that are entirely online but include in-person components such as workshops or group projects.
Both mixed-modal teaching and hybrid education have a number of benefits. For students, these approaches offer more flexibility and allow them to learn at their own pace. They also allow students to access a wider range of educational resources and experiences, and can make learning more engaging and interactive. For teachers, these approaches can make it easier to personalize instruction and support students’ individual learning needs.
One of the key advantages of mixed-modal teaching and hybrid education is that they can help to bridge the digital divide. By providing students with access to online learning opportunities, these approaches can help to level the playing field and give students from underserved communities the same opportunities as their peers.
Overall, mixed-modal teaching and hybrid education are promising approaches that can help to improve the effectiveness and accessibility of education. As technology continues to evolve, we can expect to see more and more schools and educators adopting these methods.
Have you ever held a dinner party where everyone brings a different component to the dinner? A bit like a bring and share type of event but one which is a bit more structured and planned? Aren’t they just the best kind of dinner party? Here’s ten benefits I think this kind of dinner party has going for it:
One person hosts/coordinates but does not have to take on the entire workload of providing everything.
All attendees to the party get to contribute something.
People can make things they are good at making or even bring pre-made things that fit well into the menu.
The process of planning and bring together the menu helps everyone to see what the overall meal plan is.
The variety of dishes means that everyone will have something they can eat, perhaps something new they can try and things they can choose not to eat.
The conversations around the table are enriched by discussions about the food people have brought with them.
With coordinated planning there will be a balance of starters, mains, desserts etc so that the balance of the meal feel right.
People’s dietary requirements can be easily taken into account.
The accompanying drinks and refreshments can also be a shared activity and linked to the foods being eaten.
There’s a good excuse for people to go back to the hosts house at a later date to collect their cleaned dishes and have a catch-up.
I’m hoping by now that some of you have started to see some potential links here with the dinner party and curriculum design – if you haven’t then don’t worry as I’m going to set out the analogy for you below.
A key component of both the dinner party and curriculum design is that there is a person(s) who take on the responsibility of leading/co-ordinating the activity. In the case of the dinner party this will almost certainly be the host, in a curriculum sense this will be the course leader / programme director. The important consideration is that this person is the glue who sticks it all together and makes sure that the experience is coherent. After all, who wants to turn up to a dinner party where there is poppadoms and pickles for a starter and then wild mushroom risotto for the main?
Whilst the host may coordinate the event, it is the shared process of each bringing a dish to the table that enhances the experience, the same is true in course design. Each person can bring something to the table, whether that be a module they have designed, a pedagogic approach they know will work, or an understanding of the way in which different modes of learning influences the ways in which we teach, it is the collective endeavours of each person that will make the course experience the best it can be. Therefore it’s important that the right people have a seat at the table. The SPaM framework can help you identify who needs to be invited and who will be bringing which ingredients/dishes to the party. Below I have started to map some examples of the types of roles who it might be useful to bring to your curriculum design table.
Clearly, this list isn’t exhaustive and the roles are fluid across domains and your specific context will influence the roles you have available to include in the process, but the point here is that for hybrid education it is vital to ensure that you have the right expertise and perspectives at the table and that we make the most of individuals’ specialisms. The SPaM framework can help you consider who brings what to the discussion and whilst there may be some individuals who can bring all three to the table, having a mix of voices will help ensure that a single insular view is not the one to dominate the design and in most cases these individuals will have a specialism weighted in one area more than the other.
What is critical in both the curriculum design and the dinner party is that each component will influence and inform the other. Making changes to the modality (dessert) may impact on the experience of the pedagogy (main) and the subject (starter) and so the programme director (host) must maintain oversight of the curriculum design process.
So, if we revisit our list of ten dinner party benefits they also align quite well in a curriculum design sense:
One person hosts/coordinates but does not have to take on the entire workload of providing everything.
All attendees to the party curriculum design process get to contribute something.
People can make things they are good at making make use of their expertise and even bring pre-made pre-tested things that fit well into the menu course/programme.
The process of planning and bring together the menu course/programme helps everyone to see what the overall meal plan course structure will be.
The variety of dishes voices means that everyone will have something they can eat contribute, perhaps something new they can try and things they can choose not to eat can agree might not work.
The conversations around the table are enriched by discussions about the food modules/assessments/modality/experiences people have brought with them.
With coordinated planning there will be a balance of starters, mains, desserts approaches and activities etc so that the balance of the meal learning feels right.
People’s dietary teaching requirements can be easily holistically taken into account.
The accompanying drinks and refreshments discussions on teaching activities and assessments can also be a shared activity and linked to the foods being eaten a more holistic approach to teaching.
There’s a good excuse for people to go back to the hosts house course director at a later date to collect their cleaned dishes and have follow-up discussions and a catch-up.
Now, admittedly some of these are more tenuous than others, but you get the idea. The SPaM framework doesn’t seek to define the dishes or the ingredients, but acts as a framework to structure the menu and to make sure all the dishes offer a coherent and high quality experience.
Now, the ultimate approach would be to have the curriculum design workshop run as a dinner party – anyone up for that?
I refer to the SPaM framework as being in support of the development of Hybrid Education/Learning and one of the queries I get is why use the term hybrid over blended, what’s the difference?
In the context of SPaM I will attempt to set out why I have chosen to use the term hybrid over and above any other term, but in all honesty no matter the terminology, SPaM is still useful as reference point for fully on campus / blended / hybrid / fully online course development as fundamentally it is about consciously thinking about and making decisions around each of the framework domains.
(Oh and as side note I have also heard people question why I use “in-person” in reference to just on campus teaching because after all isn’t online synchronous also in-person? Well the main reason is because that is what the dictionary definition is, so I hope we can agree on that one at least!
So with that out of the way, let’s down to the slightly more complex discussion about defining “hybrid”. What I’d like to do is start with why I’m not using the term blended. Part of the reason for this is because we just haven’t really ever managed to get to an agreed definition of what we mean by that either (and I suspect the same will be the case for hybrid), but I do think Sue Beckingham’s work (as seen in the modality section) is really helping to clarify those differences of opinion in relation to terminology and at least starting to get to a consensus of definition, even if some won’t always agree.
As you will see from that model Beckingham has provided a definition for both blended and hybrid, both of which I am pretty comfortable with, but not everyone will be. The basic premise is that ‘blended’ is a mode that is predicated around an on campus setting, using digital tools and platforms to support that experience, whereas ‘hybrid’ is predicated on learning experiences where students have aspects of their learning taking place on campus and online.
Now on the surface of it some may think that that sounds pretty much the same, but the key difference for me is that in hybrid education the curriculum is specifically designed for each mode, that means decisions about the pedagogy (including assessment design, learning activities, feedback methods etc) are all specific to the mode (this is exactly what SPaM encourages).
Also personally when I think of blended I visualise lots of ingredients in a food processor being whizzed round together – and I wanted something that represented a more structured approach.
The best analogy I have relates to a hybrid vehicle. A hybrid vehicle has both a combustion engine and electric motors. For some journeys the combustion engine is the most suitable, usually for travelling long distance or at high speed for long periods. For other journeys the electric motor will be most effective, usually those shorter runs, in urban areas and where maximum efficiency can be gained. There is also an intrinsic link between the combustion engine and the electric motor, with the former charging the batteries for the other and conversely the electric engine providing extra horse power for when the combustion engine needs it. Ultimately what we have here is a system designed for maximum flexibility, combining the benefits of both.
So, if we apply that same concept of ‘hybrid’ to education, what we should be doing is thinking about the student learning journey and designing the curriculum using different modes for different elements of that learning journey, making decisions about which mode is best for which elements of learning. At a programme level it may be that certain modules are best for certain modes, or within a module certain topics/activities are best for a certain mode. These are not decisions for me, but for those charged with the design of the programme/module, using SPaM as a point of reference for these discussions and decisions.
So, that’s the rationale for why I am using the term ‘hybrid’ – not everyone will agree with it, but firstly it is based on established use of the term, albeit outside of the education sector which in my opinion makes it less likely to be misunderstood and secondly this definition has gained traction (in the UK at least) over the past few years as we rethink our approaches to learning and teaching in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
I have no doubt that the term ‘hybrid’ will continue to be debated for many years, as we have seen with the definition of blended learning and this is to be expected as both technology, pedagogy and the scholarship of learning and teaching evolve.
All we can do is seek to clarify these terms in the context of our own work so that those who engage with this framework and it’s use understand the framing of the terminology around which it was developed. So, whether you agree with this definition or not (and I’m happy to debate it), at least you have a better sense of what it means in the context of the SPaM framework and why I am using it.
A couple of people have commented that the acronym ‘SPaM’ may not go down well in some circles. However, the structure of the acronym is purposeful and as such I am intending to keep it in this format.
Whilst the three domains should be considered equally the reality is that nearly all of the course design or curriculum development activities I have been involved with, either as a course director or as an educational developer, have almost always started with a discussion about “what” is going to be in the course, i.e. the “subject knowledge”.
That’s not to say that “content is king” as subject knowledge is more than just content, but it is very often the starting point for the curriculum design process and strongly informs learning outcomes and structure of programmes. For this reason ‘S’ for Subject is the first letter in the acronym.
Additionally both Subject & Pedagogy are already established elements of the TPACK framework (although ‘subject’ is referred to as Content Knowledge) so it makes sense to have these as the first two letters whilst the domain. Additionally, conversations about “how” a course/programme will be taught often follow on from “what” will be taught. Finally, the component which I have added into the framework is Modality, the domain which is likely to be least familiar and as such become the focus of the conversation later on in the process (hence having ‘M’ at the end of the acronym).
However, I wouldn’t want an acronym to stand in the way of a useful framework being used and so on the rare occasion where someone may object to SPaM then please feel free to use the alternative – MaPS.
Over the past few days/weeks I’ve been consolidating my thinking on a framework for Hybrid Education. You may be asking why we need a framework, after all stuff still happens with or without the framework.
Since 2014 I have been making use of the TPACK framework as part of my research into academic staff experiences of digital skills development. If you have read the Introduction section of this site you will have already noted that TPACK is the basis for the SPaM framework also.
During this research a number of benefits arose from having a framework to support the digital skills development of academic staff and these same benefits apply to this framework in a similar context. Those benefits include:
A single reference point for joining up discussions and sharing experiences across (and beyond) and organisation.
Identification of the key domains necessary for any successful hybrid/blended programme.
Recognition of the way in which these domains influence and are affected by each other.
A framework through which to guide curriculum design in the context of blended courses.
A framework through which to identify and plan staff development needs in relation to academic development.
To be adapted for both staff and student facing needs so as to connect students with the curriculum design process and make it more visible to them.
To support course/programme approval and re-approval activity by having three core areas for discussion.
A framework that encourages collaboration and holistic development by identifying what different experts bring to the curriculum design table.
Supporting a high quality student experience by ensuring that the key considerations of their learning experience are identified.
A framework which helps to connect the “what” (subject materials) with the “why” (pedagogy and modality). The “how” sits somewhere amongst all three domains and is heavily influenced by the “what”.
The list is not exhaustive and is drawn from interview data of participants with regards to their experience of TPACK. Additionally one of the key messages from this data is that the simplicity of the framework is it’s strength and as such SPaM does not seek to extend the TPACK framework beyond it’s original three core domains, but seeks to adapt it in such a way as to make it more suitable for use in a world of hybrid education.
Please do take a look at the framework introduction to start with and feel free to get in touch with any further suggestions or considerations via the contact form.
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