OU blog

Personal Blogs

Design Museum

H800 WK21-22 Activity 3b Read the NSF Task Force on Cyberlearning Report

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 1 Nov 2012, 16:39

Report of the NSF Task Force on Cyberlearning

June 24, 2008

A great deal has happened in the first six months of 2011, so reading a report published in 2008 already feels as if there are hints at what could be.

It is intriguing that projections for 2015 read like what is happening in 2011.

The rate of change can be so rapid, technologies and services leapfrogging each other all the time.

(Selective parts as indicated rather than all 49 pages. Initially download and the intro printed off. Then downloaded to an iPad and opened an iBook. The versatility here is to skip through unnecessary pages without a thought, and to pull up text in a way that gives it both tactile and visual emphasis, like crumbing flour and sugar to make bread. Suddenly reading takes on the digitation (as in a finger-like action, rather than digitisation) of cooking.

If you haven't read this my suggestion would be - don't bother! Better to read all 33 pages of the extraordinarily insightful and precise US 2011 Horizon Report.

Published in 2008 this NSF Report admits that it is based not on the latest thinking (2008), but on reading publications which by there very nature are likely to be a couple more years old. i.e. in such a fluid, fast-changing environment go for something reasoably current, if not a live-feed or discussion. My preference is to be drawn into expert discussions in various Linkedin Discussions.

My Notes

· Learning is as accessible through technologies at home as it is in the classroom

· Cyberlearning, the use of networked computing and communications technologies to support learning.

· The educational system must respond dynamically to prepare our population for the complex, evolving, global challenges of the 21st century.

· Web technologies enable people to share, access, publish – and learn from – online content and software, across the globe.

· The global scope of networked educational materials, combined with recommendation engine software, helps individuals find special niche content that appeals to their needs and interests.

· Mobile computing not just with laptop computers but also with cellular phones, internet-telephony, videoconferencing, screen sharing, remote collaboration technologies, and immersive graphical environments make distributed collaboration and interaction much richer and more realistic.

EIGHT core strategies to promote the growth of Cyberlearning effectively









These are mentioned in the introduction, but in the course of my reading they failed to materialise. Perhaps someone can enlighten me.

Similarly, in the introduction we are enticed by the prospect of ‘SEVEN special opportunities for action that have the greatest short-term payoff and long-term promise among the many that NSF might pursue’. I couldn’t find these either.








FIVE recommendations that cut across the strategies for growth and opportunities for action detailed in the body of the report.

Here I had more joy as the points are spelt out and bulleted:

1. Cross-disciplinary

2. Interoperable

3. Transformative power

4. Promote open education resources

5. To flourish beyond the funding of a grant

Opening Paragraph

Well-meaning and ambitious, as if written to convince the likes of the Gates Foundation for funding. Just as the US repeatedly saves the planet in block buster movies, here they go again with the evangelical zeal of their founding father.

‘To address the global problems of war and peace, economics, poverty, health and the environment, we need a world citizenry with ready access to knowledge about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); social behavioural, and economic sciences, and the humanities.

Our primary, secondary, and higher educational system in the United States today lack the capacity to serve the full populace effectively, not to mention support the lifelong learning essential for coping with our rapidly evolving world. While technology cannot solve all the world’s educational challenges and crises. It has the potential to broaden educational opportunities, improve public understanding and strengthen learning in classrooms and beyond.

· Internet has matured

· High-performance computing and advanced networking are ubiquitous

· Have cell phones

· Becoming a viable educational platform

‘New innovations will continue to be introduced over the coming decade and continually reconfigure the realm of possibilities for learning in a networked world'.

Cyber-enabled learning for the future (Ainsworth et al, 2005)

Cyber from Norbert Wiener (1948)

‘We can now interact at a distance, accessing complex and useful resources in ways unimaginable in early eras.’ 11


I always go for concentric rings, ripples from a pool, the rings and satellites of Saturn’s or planets in the Solar System as indicative metaphors for ‘spheres of influence’.

CF Figure 1. Advances in communication and information resources for human interaction (Roy & Jillian Wallis)

As Lord Putnam in the H800 Wk21-22 course notes is quotes as comparing advances made in surgery compared to teaching


‘Few of the innovations tried over the ensuing 25 years have resulted in large-scale change in education. Despite the revolution wrought by technology in medicine, engineering, communications, and many other fields, the classrooms, textbooks, and lectures of today are little different than those of our parents’. (And grandparents?) 12

‘K to grey’ p7 or ‘K to gray’ p12 ?

I will spot the single typo in a book that runs to 400 pages. Here I spot an inconsistency in what will no doubt become as clichéd as ‘24/7’ or ‘cradle to grave’ as a catch-all indicator/desire for life-long learning.

‘Grey’ is a proper noun, as I Lord Grey, Lady Jane Grey, even the Grey Ghost, though of course it might be the gray Grey Ghost, and once she’d had her head cut-off Lady Jane Grey would have turned gray.

Radical change is rarely instantaneous

‘Value is shifting from products to solutions to experiences’ (Prahalad & Krishnan, 2008. P.24)

Cyberlearning offers opportunities to be on the frontier of technical, social, learning, and policy research, information technology has the potential to close knowledge gaps as new digital divides appear with each wave of technical innovation. The challenge is to create a dynamically evolving system to support the learning requirements of 21st century society, work, and citizenship – from K-12 to higher education and beyond to lifelong learning (Rising Above the Gathering Storm. Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, 2007).

My opinion is that there is considerable wishful thinking here given the number of disenfranchised/marginalised groups in western populations both rural and urban, by culture/background, let alone millions fighting to find drinking water and food each day. If the forces that spread education globally train for now more teachers to go out into the field, all well and good, but I don’t see aid agencies handing out smartphones in the refugee camps of Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.


Why is this such a propitious time for a cyberlearning initiative?

· Quantity, variety and quality of content

· Constant beta releases

· Open, interoperable and global publishing for anyone of anything

· Open Learn

· Creative Commons

· The Long Tail marketplace … purchasing niche items below the popularity curve (or at either ends of it).

· A different ecosystem of learning materials is evolving

‘Advances in computer graphics, interactive visualisation, and immersive technologies now provide verisimilitude to the physical world, a window on unseen processes, and support for hypothetical explorations.’ P17

3.4 Target new audiences pp.27-28

· Materials used in unanticipated ways

· Should be deliberately made for multipurpose uses

· Adapt, mix, mash up.

· Engage users at inception

· Context awareness and content adaptability (Pea and Maldonado, 2006)


· July 2007, 100,000 took part. December 2007 a Dutch teacher made a discovery.

· Also that moth and Spotify

4.3 Harness the deluge of learning data pp 43-44

Imagine this is 2015. Our teacher has quantitative and qualitative data about their students. This is happening with the Khan Academy 2011 and has been running for a couple of years.

· Not so sure about brain imagine and physiological factors

· Spend valuable practice time where it is required.

6 Summary and Recommendations

1. Develop a vibrant Cyberlearning field by promoting cross-disciplinary communities of Cyberlearning researches and practitioners.

2. Instil a platform perspective into NSF Cyberlearning activities

(I disagree. This is not a religion. There is no need to build a church and invite people to attend and take part).

3. Emphasize the Transformative Power of ICT learning. From K to Gray. Synergistic relationships with  Foundations: Gates, Hewlett, Kauffman, MacArthur, Mellon)

4. Promote OER

5. Sustain innovations

Permalink Add your comment
Share post
Design Museum

H800 80 Week 19: Mobile devices, mobile learners & Web 2.0

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 5 Oct 2012, 06:28

From materials and commentary prepared by John Pettit (2008)

Of courses it is learning if it is on a mobile phone or any other device. Do we mean informal or formal learning? Vicarious learning or didactic? Stumbling across knowledge, or reading formerly to pass an exam? Does it matter? These devices blur the distinction between a means of educating that may eventually look dated and specific to an era.

Do we need campus based universities?

Kids can have their kicks in Ibiza then study online while holding down their first job.

Give the campus over to the retired and unemployed.

Do we need schools?

And if so, instead of being at the centre of a child's education, perhaps they become as tangential as a visit to the leisure centre of supermarket because you are better linkedin to the educators and the content when you're away from the place and all its distractions.

When do you ever not learn even if you don’t know it?

It depends entirely on what the device is being used for. Apps have shown how versatile we are at throwing activities and qualities at these devices. People want this stuff.

Is a laptop mobile? What about the old Apple Classic? I used to take it out into the garden on an extension cable and view it inside a cardboard box while sunbathing. Was that mobile? I can read in the bath on a Kindle and click through RSS feeds on the iPad while the Kettle boils. Might it simply feel as if all these people are following me around?

There are degress of mobility. Working in TV we carried around with us monitors to watch content back during a shoot. The thing was no more portable than a hod stacked with bricks.

When I read formal and informal learning I wonder if this equates to whether the learning is hard or easy. I have acquired knowledge in a formal setting and had a laugh, equally in an informal context without the self-motivation and will I have found informal learning very hard to do.

It is sometimes claimed that handheld digital devices allow students to learn at anytime, anywhere. A more nuanced position argues that the devices have the potential for ‘any time anywhere’ learning but that many other factors come into play.

For example, some devices may be easy to handle but have small screens that don’t allow easy reading.

Far from being hard to read the small screen is better suited to the narrow field of close vision that we have. So what if it is like looking through a letter box. If you want to concentrate why look at more?

A device can become too small. Too portable. As a video producer I have seen kit shrink so much that a device the size of a child’s shoe will generate a HD image and for $75 a day you could hire a camera that delivers 35mm quality. Making a film though with a device so small creates instability, you need some weight on your shoulder if you want to keep the image steady.

The portability and size of screen is less relevant than the affordances of the device, the fact that an iPad doesn’t support Flash, or Android is having problems with Google Apps, that is, if you are using learning materials that require specific functionality that isn’t working.

As for screen size, people may watch a blockbuster movie on a giant screen at the Odeon Leicester Square or on a Smartphone or palm-sized gaming device that is no bigger than a spectacle case; here what matters as with any movie, is the quality of the narrative, not the size of the screen.

Where a device’s portability comes into its own, as the person who recently made a phone call from the top of Everest, is the portability. Another extreme might be a cave diver with a device the plots the route for a cave system, or a glaciologists relaying pictures of a feature in a Greenland ice-sheet to colleagues thousands of miles away that informs the research.

‘Patterns of usage differ widely, and the fit between people’s lives and the devices they use can be very close.’ (Pettit and Kukulska-Hulme, 2007, p.28)

Is an apt way to express a new term being used in the Open University Business School to describe applied or practice-based learning that gets away from the ‘distance’ tag, that is to call it ‘nearness’ learning. (Fleck, 2011). I also like the idea of ‘intense but provisional,’ people’s attitudes are brand specific, with the Mac vs. PC split of computing now a split between Windows, Mac and Android (and others).

People chose brands to simplify the choices that have to be made between a plethora of devices, between Sony, Nokia, Goole and Windows, as well as between network suppliers, be that O2, Vodafone or others.

There is another way of looking at it though, if you come to see that all these devices offer the same sets of services and tools, from QWERTY keyboards, to a camera, from messaging to phone calls, to the hundreds of thousands of Apps, and in the case of the latest Windows phone … Windows software from Outlook to Docs, PPT to Excel.

Is size such an issue?

People have managed needlepoint for centuries and once painted miniatures. There is an appeal for the tiny sometimes, just as there is for the massive. In this respect the device becomes a reflection of the person’s personality, as well as the depth of their pockets, the availability of others services, from a signal to 3G (or not), even to the power to charge batteries.

Personal choice, celebration of variety, offering a smorgasbord rather than the continental breakfast.

‘That well-known random-access device consisting of ink on bound sheets of paper may still have plenty of life in it yet!’ (Pettit and Kukulska-Hulme, 2007, p.28) expressed in 2007 is how in 2011 writers in the e-magazine Reconstruction 6.4 describe the ‘long-tail’ of the blog, that definitions have become meaningless, suggesting that the varieties of ways to do or have what we have continued to call a ‘blog’ is as varied as the ways we have over many centuries come to use paper.

Drawing on a paper written in 2007 on research presumably undertaken a couple of years previously, it strikes me that ‘the world has moved on’, to say the least – though not enough. This exercise is looking at the extraordinary capabilities and uses for a device that in 2011 can offer somewhat more than was possible four years ago. This doesn’t mean to say we have the things.

From my own perspective I came into the MAODE (this time round) with an eight year old iBook that had trouble with some software, things as simple as PDFs and the latest versions of Flash as I was unable to upgrade the operating system. Working from a smallish screen I found myself printing off too. For the second module I had access to a better laptop and plugged it into a good-sized screen that allowed me to see a page of A4 at a time or to swivel the screen and have two windows open side by side. During the course of my third module (this one) I found myself without a particular device, but with access to a desktop, a laptop, even an iPad (and have used a Kindle to read some 16 books). Here I found myself putting everything online, into a blog and e-portfolio so I could access whatever I wanted wherever I was (or whichever device was available), as well as having the cataloguing, aggregating, sharing affordances that this has given. Any device, however mobile, and whatever size, can tap into this content.

The problem now, isn’t simply, for me at least, is the overwhelming volume of content I have put online, which despite adopting various approaches to keep track of it, has split into a number of blogs (OU, Blogger, WordPress, and Tumblr), a number of cloud galleries/warehouses in the sky (Flick, Dropbox, Kodak and Picasa Galleries, My Stuff, Pebblepad).

It is apt that I blog under the name ‘my mind bursts’, because it has, and is.

Like having a thought, or recalling some event or fact seemingly on a whim, I find I stumble across these ‘mind bursts’ quite by accident, forgetting the number of blogs, for example, that I for a period started only to abandon so that ‘serendipity’ has a role to play through the myriad of links I’ve also made. None of this has helped by finding myself with three Facebook accounts and unsure how to delete the ‘right’ one.

The attitude can only be to ride this like the web surfer of a decade ago – to run with it, rather than try and control it. You meet friends coming off a training a Liverpool Station, you do not need to know who else is on the concourse, the timetables for every train that day, week or year. To cope with the overwhelming quantity of stuff tools to filter out what matters to you at that moment is coming to matter most.

Currently I find myself repeatedly drawn to the activities of Hugo Dixon, a former Economist and FT journalist, who set up a business he called ‘Breaking Views’ to counter what he already by then perceived as a deluge of online information and the old print-based expression ‘Breaking News’; we would come to need as some pundits predicted fifteen years ago, ‘information managers’ or ‘information management systems’.

I wish I could reference the expression properly but ‘Freedom is lack of choice’ is one of my favourites; sometimes filters and parameters have their place. I enjoy using a Kindle as much for its limitations; it is something I can take to bed knowing that it’ll send me to sleep, while an iPad keeps me up all night.


Fleck, J (2011) Association of MBAs Conference Video 2011

Pettit, John and Kukulska-Hulme, Agnes (2007). Going with the grain: mobile devices in practice. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 23(1), pp. 17–33.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post
Design Museum

H800 80 Wk 12 Use of Technology

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 29 Aug 2011, 10:38

I've decided to look at mobile learning ... or simply learning on handheld and portable devices. The same thing, or different.

I've been informed by the OU's 'Learning at Work Day' on the 19th May and a presentation by Rhodri Thomas at a stand that showcases the research and work being done in relation to mobile learning.

More from Mobisite

The shift towards mobile learning, using these devices to complement course work, or to carry out or engage in learning styles made uniquely possibly by highly portable, networked devices, is evidence by the figures and perhaps inevitable now that mobile phones at almost universal (93% UK penetration by 2008, presumably more in 2011).

More in Cloudworks

2% of OU students (4,000 or so) use tablets (not just iPads). 11% use SmartPhones (not just iPhones).

All coursework development/availability is 'device agnostic'

I'm impressed how it is driven by student use - this drives the response from the OU, rather than clever folk buried in the OU thinking 'this'll work, developing something, adding bells and whistles andexpeting students to leap to attention when it is presented.

The OU has been tracking use of mobile devices for learning by 35,000 students.

Are they calling it cellular learning in North America?

Kind of misses the point about mobility. This is the key, not a device to take slightly reversioned module content, but to permit content, communication and development exploiting the affordances of a handheld or pocket-sized device that you might have with you up a cliff face, on an oil-rig, or in a crowd of protesters - were the learning, and writing and researching can all take place in situ.

The key points (largely from an IET Agnes Kukulska-Hulme Report Kukulska-Hulme, 2010:10)

Mobile learning is:

  • Very flexible
  • Appropriate/supportive
  • New
  • Convenient
  • Contemporary
  • Practical
  • Beneficial
  • Has its own unique affordances/advantages
  • Personal/personalised
  • Spontaneous
  • Immediate
  • Extends access to materials not replacement technology)
  • Locational
  • Universal (ish)
  • Leap-frog technology in Africa
  • Engaging
  • Expected

I liken it to having a tour guide with you, rather than the book. So learning in the field, human or physical geography, history of art, archaeology and history, for example, can all be brought to life with this 'expert in your poket' to refer to.

A distance learner's mobile device (at the Open University) can be used as a way to:

  • carry around study materials
  • aces new or additional content
  • build up a series of personal notes
  • help make or maintain communications between different contexts

Supported by VLE 2.0 and Moodle 2.0

  • organised personal learning schedules
  • give feedback, opinions or answers
  • get quick information or support
  • communicate with other learners or tutors

Coming from advertising where 'testing to destruciton' is a favourite way to promote some products, I wonder if a new module can be 'tested to destruction' by making it mobile? The stresses or rather the robust nature of the course, and the support provided, my be tested to extreme, for example by someone studying for an OU MBA on an oilrig, or a BA in History while cycling through Europe?

Designing for mobile learning

Designing for mobile learning should follow established principles of good pedagogical design, or 'learning design', in terms of first specifying objectives, outcomes, resources and interactions; then engaging in piloting or developmental testing where possible; followed finally by evaluation and fine-tuning. (Kukulska-Hulme, 2010:10)

Mobile devices are often used in the midst of, and in support of, some kind of 'action'.

How will you evaluate it?

A synthesis of usability issues across a range of mobile learning projects (Kukulska-Hulme, 2007) found that issues reported in the research literature, in relation to what is required in the activity of learning, could be summarised under four main headings:

  • the physical attributes of mobile devices
  • content and software applications
  • network speed and reliability
  • the physical environments of use

The key issues relate to six aspects of mobile learning: (2008:11)

  • The learners
  • Other people
  • Tasks engage in
  • Device being used
  • Connectivity/networks used
  • Locations of use

In addition, there is a cluster of questions to be asked about the longer term requirements and outcomes of mobile learning


In general, materials designed for print or online delivery are not likely to be ideal for viewing or interacting with on mobile devices.

A key desire for students is to be alerted when assessment results come through.

They can track their progress also using reversioned VLE content directly on their device of choice.


Biodiversity Observatory Project

Enabling Remote Activity


LEARNING AND TEACHING GUIDES FROM IET. MOBILE LEARNING. Agnes Kukulska-Hulme, with case studies by Anna Page.

Date ? I've calling it 2010 for now.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

This blog might contain posts that are only visible to logged-in users, or where only logged-in users can comment. If you have an account on the system, please log in for full access.

Total visits to this blog: 5322886