H818 conference presentation questions and answers

Simon Ball, my H818 tutor, has kindly sent me all the questions and comments people made during my H818 online conference presentation last Saturday. See Working with interpreters for my account of the presentation, some slides and the transcript.

I responded briefly to some of these at the time in the 5 minute questions/answers slot at the end of my presentation.

Now, 6 days later, I’m reviewing the questions and comments to respond more fully below.

The questions and comments:

– How much additional time was needed for translation?
– I’ve worked with an interpreter myself to deliver CPD – it’s really Hard!!!
– working with interpreters is challenging as it is more than the words … non – verbal can assist too
– Are you having a practice session before the actual teaching?
– better to know even a little bit the language of the students – my experience((.
– So instructive — having the interpreter seems to have made visible just how much interpretation our learners often have to do! (When it is easy to assume ‘we teach: they learn’ 😉 )
– To what extent did cultural differences impact on the teaching sessions?
– Were the interpreters familiar with the content of the course?
– Really interesting stuff – something that I just hadn’t appreciated before
– Echo the issue with animations not addressing cultural diversity
– links to my work as work with healthcare providers globally
– A really active kind of learning – great work, Anna
– have seen similar sort of issues with a blind student with a sighted assistant who “translated” their instructions into submitted work, and a lot was lost in translation
– It makes it difficult to teach with the gaps before responding?
– Great presentation, well done. How much do you think you lost in not being able to directly communicate with the learners? When I have conducted interviews with a translator, I often felt that the translator ‘edited’ the students’ responses
– Interpreters may find difficulties when the subject contents are hard to understand
– The use of previous cohorts seems like a good idea.

My responses:

Did I have a practice session before the actual teaching?

No, I didn’t do a practice session with the interpreters before any of the sessions, nor did I practice with any of the other tutors, though the tutors had several planning meetings together in the 3 months leading up to the Residential School when we went through what would be covered and our approaches to each element of the sessions.

In hindsight, some of what we planned for the Assessment of Distance Learning sessions (which incorporated quiz question building) was quite ambitious in the time available, especially in view of the diverse range of experience which the participants had about assessment methods. However, trying pedagogical approaches with the learners, getting their feedback and reviewing our methods prompted some immediate adaption, changes for subsequent sessions and longer term plans which include some translated flipped learning materials and activities, to enable more active learning in face-to-face sessions.

How much additional time was needed for translation [in the sessions]?

I roughly estimated this took a significant proportion of time during each face-to-face teaching session: approximately a third, though not quite half of the time (depending upon the mix of presentation and activities). Although some of the participants could understand some English, it was impossible to tell how fluent they were, and if tutors spoke fast or for to long, this reduced their chances of following what was being said. So we consciously had to slow ourselves down, think carefully about how we were explaining something and then wait while the interpreter translated and spoke. Responding to questions also took time, the interpreter had to listen then ask us the question and this sometimes turned into a three way conversation if we weren’t sure of the question.

Were the interpreters familiar with the content?

No, for the interpreters, what we were teaching was new to them too and they were keen learners. They were young university students, who could speak English well, but some of the terminology we were introducing was unfamiliar to them. Their positive attitude made a huge difference to the tutors and helped the learners understand more.

How much was lost in translation?

It was difficult to tell whether the interpreters were substantially editing what we had said when they translated or whether their potential misunderstanding of a topic was being passed on to the learners. However, clarification questions helped tutors gauge that at least some of what we were explaining was being understood and translated appropriately. In the practical hands-on sessions I was teaching, it was particularly apparent when learners understood, because they succeeded in configuring something which was quite complicated and they asked meaningful questions about quiz question configuration which showed they were grasping what I was trying to explain. This was heartening (and something we celebrated); however at the same time it gave me much food for thought on finding alternative ways to convey the time-consuming complexities of quiz building more accessibly next time so that language and culture is less of a barrier.

To what extent did cultural differences make an impact on the sessions?

I became conscious that I wasn’t sure if some gestures were culturally acceptable or not (such as a thumbs up for well done/success: no one told me it wasn’t, but I stopped using it because I was unsure). There was a strong cultural element of deference to expertise; even within the groups: it was noticeable that there was a hierarchy between the academic and ICT learners within each university group when working together and respectful deference to tutor knowledge. Smiling seemed to be a universally understood non-verbal language, thankfully, and went a long way to build relationships between learners, interpreters and tutors. The status of the young interpreters in relation to the learners (who were Higher Educational academics and ICT support staff) wasn’t entirely clear to me. In a culture of deference to expert teacher, they would traditionally be considered as learners, yet as interpreters facilitating communication between tutors from another country and Higher Education staff learners (educators in their various ways), their temporary role changed their status to something more ambiguous – both influential and deferential.

I was also conscious of my complete lack of the Myanmar language (apart from the polite greeting of ‘mingalabar’ which is ‘hello’) and very basic knowledge about the country and customs, in comparison to learner knowledge of English. Personally, it highlighted the imbalance between some cultures regarding attitude towards language learning, colonialism and intercultural exchange of ideas and practices.

Tutors were encouraged to utilise activities which helped groups collaborate across roles to introduce new approaches to learning which could build upon or change the traditional classroom lecture approaches. It isn’t realistic or practical to introduce radical, sudden changes to educational culture as it won’t be sustainable, it is better to introduce pedagogies gradually in ways which model such practices as exemplars which could be tried, reviewed and adapted by learners for their contexts.

The use of previous cohorts seems like a good idea

This comment was as a result of me explaining during my answers something which I didn’t have time to mention in the 10 minute presentation – the training of some members of the 2018 cohort of learners as tutors during the Residential School, to help build sustainability into the distance learning programme. This strand of the 2 year programme was called Training of Trainers (ToT) and I believe five learners in the 2018 cohort presented various ICT strand topics during the Residential school. One of them presented during the OpenLearn Create Masterclass which I ran on the Thursday afternoon – she used English slides (with some Myanmar language words) and explained about self-registering an account, logging on and creating a course to the class in Myanmar language while we watched. It was immensely helpful that she did this near the start of the Masterclass, before I introduced the Moodle tools the ICT learners were going to try out in their draft courses. Although I couldn’t understand what she was saying, I could follow it roughly because she was using slides which were mostly in English (and depicted web pages which are familiar to me).

Ideally the Masterclass for the ICT support learners needed to be run earlier in the week, followed by a quiz question building session before the main joint session with the Academic learners on Assessment for Distance learning. The programme is continually under review regarding content, teaching approaches and cascading both content and pedagogy so that it becomes locally sustainable.

Animations not addressing cultural diversity

This is an interesting issue and I noticed that some other H818 students were encountering similar limitations when building their conference posters using multimedia tools, because the availability of free culturally diverse images, clipart or animations is not widespread online. It seems that online tools and resources often reinforce the dominance of Global North imagery as the basic standard ‘for free’ versions such as online animation characters, with greater diversity of choices only available behind a pay wall.

Additionally, animating a character exaggerates particular quirks or behaviours, sometimes this can be quite stereotypical and matches rather than challenges perceptions of how characters might behave or look, depending upon their culture or status. There is a danger that selecting and using an animated character and its actions based upon stereotypical behaviours or appearance could inadvertently cause cultural offence rather than be inclusive, though some stereotypes can also quickly and usefully convey actions which are widely understood across cultures.

For Open Educational Resources and Open Educational Practices to truly become more culturally inclusive, it is vital to create a wider diversity of resources which are freely available to use.

If you have ever taught with the assistance of an interpreter, please complete my short online survey ‘Working with interpreters (translators) for teaching and learning‘ which will inform the scenarios in good practice videos I am making.


Working with interpreters

It was a fascinating afternoon at the H818 The Networked Practitioner Online Conference 2020, a global tour of open education projects, as one of the other students explained on Twitter:

The H818 conference of MAODE has taken me to Nigeria 🇳🇬 Bangladesh 🇧🇩 Myanmar 🇲🇲 Dominica 🇩🇲 Netherlands 🇳🇱 Sri Lanka 🇱🇰 Uganda 🇺🇬 Rwanda 🇷🇼 .... and we are only just over halfway through! @OpenUniversity is brilliant! — Anna Sue (@AnnaGreathead) February 15, 2020

Anna Greathead’s tweet about H818 online conference 15.2.2020


Thankfully my 10 minute presentation ‘A rabbit in the headlights! Learning from doing: open practices, interpreters and educational colonialism‘ with 5 minutes for questions went smoothly and the other presentations all came through, one with the assistance of a pre-recording because of local electricity supply problems, though he was able to join us for the questions. There was huge variety in the projects presented, because each student had their own projects to work on which used one of the three H818 themes:

  • Inclusion
  • Innovation
  • Implementation

The conference presentations were not meant to be a summary of the conclusions of our projects because many of them have longer lifespans than the length of the module, instead we could talk about  what we had done so far, any difficulties we were facing or had overcome and future plans, using the conference as an opportunity to invite the H818 network of current and former students as well as MAODE educators to help us with advice, collaborating on new projects or sharing our work with their networks.

In my project I’ve got as far as analysing observational notes and feedback data to start formulating scenarios to illustrate in my videos about educational colonialism. I need a wider range of experiences of teaching with interpreters to inform the scenarios I have started compiling, to make them more credible and engaging. So I have designed a short online, anonymous survey which I have been sharing via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and within H818.

If you are an educator who has worked with an interpreter to help you communicate with learners, please complete the survey:

Working with interpreters (translators) for teaching and learning

My conference presentation (script with some illustrations):

Slide 1

Slide 1: A rabbit in the headlights! Learning from doing: open practices, interpreters and educational colonialism

Slide 1 image

I am interested in educational colonialism, and the development of inclusive, sustainable educational practices to support diversity and equity.

For my H818 project I am focussing on the theme of inclusion. My project output will be a video series illustrating good practice examples in cross-cultural education situations; to be published as OER – Open Educational Resources – on YouTube.

I am using an international development project led by the Open University as a case study. This has given me my first experience of teaching in Myanmar with the help of an interpreter.

I felt a bit like a ‘rabbit in the headlights’ the first time I lead a TIDE workshop, despite all the preparation beforehand.

Slide 2

Some context about TIDE.

TIDE Transformation by Innovation in Distance Education

Slide 2 image

Slide 3

Slide 3: images of Myanmar Ministry of Education website, TIDE collection, UNESCO sustainable development goals website and UK Aid website page about TIDE

Slide 3 image

The Myanmar Ministry of Education aims to improve Higher Education following years of under-investment. There is an increasing demand for skilled graduates. Traditional lecture and classroom practices, introduced when Myanmar was Burma, a British colony, places teachers as subject experts, and students as receivers of knowledge.

TIDE: The ‘Transformation by Innovation in Distance Education’ project aims to introduce new approaches to teaching and learning in Myanmar, aspiring to meet the UNESCO Sustainable Development Goals. TIDE is UK Aid funded.

TIDE has been running online and face-to-face events since May 2018 for Higher Education staff on a two year education programme, including webinars, residential schools and reusing existing OER. The topics are chosen with the universities and are mostly taught in English.

Residential Schools have two strands:

  • Academic focussing on environmental management and climate change topics.
  • ICT support strand teaching online and distance education practices and assessment methods.

Slide 4

Slide 4: table showing residential school participants and image of TIDE residential school registration

Slide 4 image

At the five day November 2019 Residential School hosted by University of Yangon there were 150 higher education staff learners from several Myanmar Universities. 73 were ICT support staff.

The sessions were in a lecture theatre and classrooms.

For the ICT support strand there were 6 ICT tutors and 4 Academic tutors for Assessment methods. There were 11 tutors for the Academic strand.

TIDE teaches collaborative learning practices for learners to try, potentially adopting in their own context, changing traditional dynamics between teachers, learners and technical support staff.

To reduce colonial bias, the crucial element of this practice is informed choice:
what they adopt must not be imposed as ‘the way to do it now’ but needs to be critically reviewed by learners for their context.

Tutors were encouraged to try new approaches, making sessions as interactive as possible, adapting activities in response to feedback.

Collaborative planning discussions reflected on previous residential schools which showed the need for interpreters, to improve communication between tutors and learners, mostly bilingual but not fluent English speakers. There were 19 interpreters.

Slide 5

Slide 5: images of extract fromTIDE residential school programme featuring the Assessment workshops, Myanmar language instructions for configuring a quiz question and a Moodle quiz in edit mode

Slide 5 image

ICT support sessions were run by tutors in pairs, taking turns as lead or assistant educator. Tutors observed each other, and made reflective notes in a shared Google document.

I lead the quiz question building activity, part of ‘Assessment for Distance Learning’.

I wrote step-by-step guidance for each question type based on an OER called ‘Hands-on Moodle quiz’, which was translated in learner handbooks.

Academic and ICT learners in the 2018 cohort learned about online assessment methods.
In groups they wrote a quiz question using one of three question types.

While Academic learners explored Assessment methods, ICT learners were asked to build the questions online using OpenLearn Create, a Moodle OER platform.

31 ICT learners crowded at desks with their laptops and draft questions.

Some learners were unfamiliar with Moodle. None had set up quiz questions before.

With an interpreter, I did a short demonstration of how to set up a Moodle quiz, and then invited learners to build a question.

Learners worked in small groups with interpreters and tutors circulating.

When groups wanted one-to-one help I explained, with the interpreter, what settings to configure, why a question might need changing, or a different question type.

When I discovered everyone making the same mistake, I did a demonstration, speaking a sentence, and then the interpreter translated before I spoke again. It took practice to get this right because it was easy to say too much for the interpreter to remember and translate.

Working with small groups with interpreters gave me insight into the ideas and misconceptions learners had about online assessment methods.

Slide 6

The follow-up session enabled ICT learners to continue building their quiz questions.

There were celebrations and laughter when some learners succeeded in getting their quiz questions to work ready for demonstration the next day.

It took longer to build questions than planned because there was a lot to absorb, even with the help of a pre-translated guide and engaged interpreters, as configuring quiz questions is not simple.

Tutors tried to adopt approaches which rebalanced the relationship between learner and teacher.

Strongly ingrained learner deference to expert teacher was hard to overcome, though hands-on activities engaged and started to empower learners to question, debate and collaborate.

Slide 7

What mistakes were made?

Tutor observation notes of all ICT sessions that week recorded common mistakes when working with interpreters and learners, such as:

  • Some activities were not explained clearly enough, or had no written translated guidance.
  • Some tutors didn’t brief interpreters fully, so interpreters had to think fast to understand and translate.
  • Tutors speaking for too long before handing over to the interpreter. Clarification took more time.
  • Sessions were content rich with insufficient time allowance for translation.
  • Some sessions didn’t have enough hands-on activities.

Slide 8

Slide 8: image of the Moodle quiz description of a quiz designed during the TIDE residential School

Slide 8: the Moodle quiz description of a quiz designed during the TIDE residential School

Is feedback from project participants acted upon sensitively and constructively?

  • Between tutors, interpreters and learners there was a real eagerness to learn from each other.
  • The interpreters were brilliant – they made it possible for tutors to listen and understand learner’s difficulties, enabling friendly, constructive conversations leading to achievements for some learners.
  • The experience of running the quiz question workshop with a language barrier, informed my adaption of the follow-up session, and the OpenLearn Create Masterclass the next day.
  • The observational notes and feedback continue to inform learning design approaches and collaborative creation of resources for the TIDE project, including an online activity I built following a workshop activity not working as planned.

Slide 9

What good practices could be adopted more widely?

  • Pair interpreters with tutors for the week and put them in touch with each other via email for briefing purposes.
  • Hold a briefing session between tutors and interpreters before the event.
  • Design practical learning activities which encourage collaborative peer support between learners.
  • Provide unambiguous written step-by-step guidance for activities, which is translated in advance.
  • Design and share online OER versions of guidance,
    pilot test with learners and interpreters
    use their feedback to revise
    before getting OERs translated as flipped classroom resources to be used before another face-to-face learning event.

Slide 10

Slide 10: Inclusive practice in video production, with image of the characters used in the pilot video, and link to online survey

Slide 10 image

I am mapping potential scenarios to illustrate in the good practice videos.

The experience of creating the pilot video using the free version of online animation software highlighted some underlying educational colonialism issues and inclusive practice decisions in video production:

  • Animated character choice in the free version is not ethnically diverse and could reinforce stereotypes and colonialism;
  • Scenarios need a narrative in unambiguous language to be inclusive;
  • Use of symbols, such as flags for language, in the animations needs to be obvious by clarifying their meanings;
  • Choice of voice for narration is critical to supporting the video message:
    Does the voice have a strong accent or is it bland to reduce obvious nationality?
  • A transcript is vital for local translation to make the video more inclusive.

To inform the video scenarios further, I have designed a short survey for educators who have worked with interpreters. Please follow the link and share your experience.

Websites and Bibliography

ACPageOU (2020) ‘Learning from doing’ (YouTube). Available at https://youtu.be/7SYN-1a_J7o

Adam, T. (2019) ‘Digital neocolonialism and massive open online courses (MOOCs): colonial pasts and neoliberal futures’, Learning, Media and Technology Volume 44, 2019 – Issue 3: Global Technologies, Local Practices. Available at https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/cjem20/44/3 (accessed 13 November 2019)

Lane, A. (2017) ‘Open Education and the Sustainable Development Goals: Making Change Happen [1464]’, Paper presented at the OER17 conference ‘The Politics of Open’, 5-6 April 2017, London, UK. Available at https://oer17.oerconf.org/sessions/open-education-and-the-sustainable-development-goals-making-change-happen-1464/#gref (Accessed 13 November 2019)

Myanmar Ministry of Education (n.d.) Available at http://www.moe-st.gov.mm/

Perryman, L-A. & de los Arcos, B. (2016). Women’s empowerment through openness: OER, OEP and the Sustainable Development Goals. Open Praxis, 8(2) pp. 163–180. Available at https://openpraxis.org/index.php/OpenPraxis/article/view/289/206 (Accessed 13 November 2019)

TIDE – Transformation by Innovation in Distance Education project (2017-2021). UK Aid ‘Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education Innovation and Reform’ [online]. Available at https://www.spheir.org.uk/partnership-profiles/transformation-innovation-distance-education (accessed 30 December 2019)

UNESCO (n.d.) Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development [online]. Available at https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld (Accessed 12 November 2019)


The contents of this blog post has been created and shared using a Creative Commons ShareAlike Non-commercial licence which means others can remix, tweak and build upon this work non-commercially as long as they credit me and licence their new creations under the identical terms.  If you reuse any part of this blog post including photos or text please use the following attribution to credit me:  CC BY-NC-SA by Anna C Page https://annacpage.wordpress.com/2020/02/16/working-with-interpreters/
For more information about Creative Commons licences see https://creativecommons.org/

Inclusivity activity

I recently volunteered to run the Inclusivity activity, which is one of the Living Threads challenges, at our local Trefoil Guild meeting. The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts has a diverse membership around the world, and this year for World Thinking Day on 22 February WAGGGS has designed a challenge called ‘Living Threads’ exploring Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

At our January Trefoil Guild meeting we had done the ‘Getting ready to play Living Threads’ activity, at our February meeting (2 weeks early for Thinking Day) we did the remaining 4 activities – one activity for each theme and a reflective / creative activity.

The WAGGGS activity pack gave a number of options for each theme, our leader had chosen the options and 3 of us volunteered at the January meeting to run them, so were given the instructions and equipment in advance of the February meeting. The Diversity activity (which revealed some differences but many similiarities in our group) and Equity activity (which used teamwork) were done first and went fine.

The Inclusivity activity (based on a game from Our Chalet) was trickier than the others and I had to read the instructions in the pack several times to work out exactly what we needed to do and what instructions needed to be given, especially as the activity appeared to have been designed for several groups to observe each other. I ended up redrafting the handout for the group slightly to make the instructions clearer and simplifying it for one group only.

The group were asked to hold a discussion with some agreed rules which those not in the group had to try and work out from observing what the group was doing and saying.

My minor redraft gave the group a choice of two topic options and sets of rules, with clear instructions to choose one option. I could have made it simpler by giving them one topic and one set of rules, but I wanted them to have a discussion and make their own choice, otherwise it felt too prescriptive. Their instruction sheets were on one side of A4.

Although the WAGGGS instructions said a group of 4-5 people, because there were only 8 of us at the meeting, we decided that 2 of us would make the tea while the other 6 would discuss which topic to choose. Then, when we brought in their tea they had to start their discussion and use gestures, hands and body language rules which the two of us had to try to identify then copy so we could join their conversation.

Inclusivity activity

In Switzerland there are 4 official languages, so it can be hard for people to understand each other. Gestures, hand and body language are important.

In this game, in your group, please have a conversation following certain rules.

The others will observe your conversation, to try and work out what your rules are, and integrate themselves into your group.

Topic option 1

These are the cultural rules of your community:
    • End every sentence so it sounds like a question
    • Never make eye contact when you speak to someone
    • Make lots of hand gestures when you talk
    • Wink every time you say ‘yes’
    • Touch the floor when your name is mentioned
Topic to discuss:

Ask each other about what you have been doing today.

Topic option 2

These are the cultural rules of your community:
    • Start every sentence with ‘I see’
    • Sit with your hands clasped
    • Touch your ear when the word ‘and’ is said
    • Point at someone when you talk to them
    • Shake your head if someone speaks for too long
Topic to discuss:

Ask each other about your favourite meals and places to eat them

What you need to do

    1. Discuss these rules in the group for a couple of minutes and decide which topic option and rules you will use.
    2. Sit so the others can see you and hold your discussion.
    3. The others will observe what you are doing and will try and work out what your group rules are. They might try to follow what they think are your group rules to join your conversation.
    1. Stop the discussion when instructed, for the whole group discussion.

The group chose topic option 1.

Some were better at applying the rules than others, some made them very obvious, there was a lot of laughing at hidden jokes or each other’s discomfort. In hindsight, they had too many rules to try and remember (most of them were looking down at the sheet with the rules to remind themselves, which spoiled the flow of conversation). Perhaps only giving them 3 rules in each topic option would have been better. We managed to identify hand gestures and touching the floor, it was less easy to identify ‘I see’, the winking or lack of eye contact unless it was exaggerated. Different members of the group did different combinations of the rules or only one rule, so they weren’t consistently applied, which made it even harder to identify all the rules they were using. This reflects real cultural practice with rules never perfectly applied.

We followed this with a discussion about what rules we had managed to identify and how it made us feel to not be included.

Stop after a while and hold a whole group discussion:

    1. Ask what rules were identified
    2. How did people feel when they joined the group – did they think they had got all the rules?
    3. How can we act when we come into contact with a new culture?
    4. How can we help people who don’t fit in?

As we plaited our friendship bracelets from the threads we had selected at the end of each activity we continued the discussion about the three themes, though it soon moved onto other topics.

We each received a cloth badge for completing the activity, so I digitised mine by tweeting about it.

Living Threads 2020 - my tweet about #WTD2020 for International World Thinking day 22 Feb our Trefoil Guild did Living Threads Diversity, Equity & Inclusion challenge. I adapted the Inclusion activity to suit our group. #WTD2020 #inclusion We made friendship bracelets with our 3 threads & got a badge https://t.co/zfwmAb0HTI pic.twitter.com/4jFNiQot0Q — Anna Page (@AnnaCPage) February 10, 2020

Living Threads 2020 – my tweet about #WTD2020

I learned the following as a Learning Designer from running this activity:

  • however clear you think the guidance might be, someone won’t read it properly or understand it fully, so presenting it in both written and verbal form and answering questions helps to clear up any misunderstandings
  • reusing existing activities always needs to involve reviewing, revising then running to suit the context
  • people in some cultures have to be really enthusiastic about and convinced by the activity to be willing to step beyond their comfort zone when participating (for some, doing gestures or body language they didn’t normally do in conversation was deeply uncomfortable)

The topic of inclusion is hard to discuss in a group which isn’t visibly very diverse or is uncomfortable discussing deeper thoughts or contraversal views. It is easy to make an assumption that everyone feels the same about something, especially as some people hide what they feel if they think it will upset others, because that could quickly lead to being excluded from the group.


The contents of this blog post has been created and shared using a Creative Commons ShareAlike Non-commercial licence which means others can remix, tweak and build upon this work non-commercially as long as they credit me and licence their new creations under the identical terms.  If you reuse any part of this blog post including photos or text please use the following attribution to credit me:  CC BY-NC-SA by Anna C Page https://annacpage.wordpress.com/2020/02/13/inclusivity-activity/
For more information about Creative Commons licences see https://creativecommons.org/