the Tom Tom, learning & making connections

Post by Ruth Moeller & Kylie Budge.

Image by: Ruth Moeller.

The Teaching Tom Tom has been an initiative of the Learning & Teaching Team, College of Design & Social Context, RMIT University.

When the Teaching Tom Tom began 6 months ago, its aim was to create a community of practice amongst learning and teaching staff (or achieve world domination, whichever comes first). We wanted to trial using social media, in our case blogging and twitter, to provide a forum for those interested in teaching and learning at the tertiary level.

Well, we haven’t achieved world domination quite yet (!) but the Tom Tom has had some success in developing a community of practice. As a reader of the Tom Tom from the comfort of your computer screen, you are joining about 600 others world wide who have an interest in learning and teaching. Think about it, how many people were at the last teaching and learning meeting you went to?

Along the way we have learned many things but the main thing being: social media is social; it’s about making connections. And it’s a two-way dialogue. This doesn’t just have to mean online. ‘Shut up and write‘ sessions have provided a chance for writers across RMIT to share a coffee (or herbal tea), have a chat, write for one pomodoro (25 minutes), have another chat, and write for another pomodoro. In doing so, making connections that help in research, teaching, and blogging. Connections are also made in sourcing, encouraging and supporting contributors to the Tom Tom and in discussing and commenting on posts (both face to face and online).

The other aspect of our social media experiment has been connection with the twitterverse, where we have discovered and shared ideas and resources with fellow Twitterers, most of whom we have never, and will never meet but who have become part of the community of practice we have been engaged with. Being part of this community, we have realized that this kind of activity can also be part of professional development, not replacing journal articles, conferences and more formal professional development initiatives, but enhancing them – providing tasters and snapshots that can lead to further exploration.

We would like to acknowledge all those would have supported the Tom Tom, and in particular our fellow RMIT bloggers Inger Mewburn from The Thesis Whisperer, and Tseen Khoo and Jonathan O’Donnell from The Research Whisperer for their advice and encouragement.

We are taking a break for a few weeks until early next year. This will give us an opportunity to review, reflect and refresh our approach.

Have a restful holiday season!

Peer learning sucks…

Post by Angela Clarke.

Image via

When you don’t set it up right.  Poorly facilitated peer learning leads to frustration and disillusionment for students and teachers alike, both blaming the other for a lousy learning experience.

I have heard it said that peer learning is something that happens outside of class and should be left up to students, after all isn’t the purpose of peer learning to encourage self-direction?

Well yes but problem is that self-direction needs to be nurtured, facilitated and fostered over time.  When students, particularly first years are left to their own devices to form peer study groups it is difficult for them to sustain meaningful learning experiences.

If you are keen to help students use their learner directed hours well through study groups then it is important for you to initiate this work in the first week by allowing time for them to form groups in class.  Touch base with whole group about how the study groups are going at least 3 times and let them know why you value peer learning.

Your attitude toward the work students do in study groups significantly impacts on how they engage with it.  Even seemingly benign comments like “I’m not interested in what you do in your study groups, it’s up to you” can undermine your intention.  Be interested in how they use their time, make loads of suggestions and link it to your assessment.

Using study group agreements is particularly helpful for students when issues arise, individuals don’t pull their weight or things don’t go as planned. I’ve attached an example from art and design.  Feel free to adapt for your purposes.  Again allow time in class for students to formulate a first draft of their agreement and discuss why you value this as a learning tool.

What’s your experience in using peer learning?