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H809: Activity 13.1

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 24 May 2013, 11:22

Read pp. 3–8 of Hammersley’s paper, up to the heading ‘Context as virtual’. Identify the ways in which Hammersley talks about context and, in particular, what he identifies as ethnographic understandings of context.

 

In Week 8 context was identified as an issue in research methods generally. How do you think Hammersley addresses the issues concerning context raised in Week 8?

The point made introducing Activity 8.3 is that ‘ Crook and Dymott (2005) adopt a different theoretical approach to learning and context. Hence their research adopts different methodologies compared to the studies discussed by Tolmie.

From Tolmie (2001). Surroundings mean different things to different people. It is naive and deterministic to think that people are so easily governed by their context. The individual over the surroundings. Unless we think students are like a uniform tribal grouping.

‘They are necessarily employed within pre-existing contexts of educational and social activity’. Tolmie (2001) But such ‘contexts’ are or have been radically overhauled, take ESSA in Manchester by way of example. Both how and where the students and teachers interact matters. Rather like product design - form and function. The two are complimentary.

Crook and Dymott (2005) seem focused on the interaction between the various media of life, in particular written texts, lectures and social interactions affect the manner in which we think and express that thinking. Writing to me is a function of the communicating clusters in our brain and will produce the similar ‘comprehension’ results whether cunieform on clay, hieroglyphys on stone, handwriting on papyrus, printing on paper, text on a screen or an annotated animation in a video. The way the brain interlinks with other parts of the brain, and does so in different ways every time a fact is remembered will differ. An item listed on clay will be associated with the act of tapping a hammer into the clay, or an idea expressed via a QWERTY keyboards and printed off might recall the smell of the printer ink .. but does the kernel of the thought differ? To what degree is context the wrapping and associations rather than the information itself?

Learning is both an artefact and a process - the artefact exists as a potential in the brain and when stimulated can in part, through the complexity, be seen in a fMRI scan. The process of learning takes place as an interaction with the world around us, more people, but also the context and ours.

From the recorded memoirs of my late grandfather Jack Wilson, (Vernon, 2008) I wonder how, as an office boy age 14-18 he responded or changed to going from a ‘copy writer’ using 'copying ink' and using carbon paper to using the Blickenfurentstater typewriter that was brought round to the office one morning … and handed to him to master. It intrigues me that even a hundred years ago one generation might hand ‘new technology’ to the youngest member of the team or group … as if we expect the youthful mind and attitude to be more plastic? He lived through a period of extraordinary change - first motorcars, typewriters, telephones, aeroplanes … ‘total war’ … part and parcel (his expression) of these technological innovations were changes in society, not least caused by the First World War. Yet in all of this I can’t see how the context can be isolated from the far more significant influence of the person as an individual or in their community … that historically calamitous events and physical change to the environment fail to have a profound effect, collectively, on who or what we are as humans. Was it Prof. Robert Winston who said that Homo Sapiens doing Cave Paintings has more, not less, in common with a concert pianist in the 20th century? I do rather think that the capacity and scope of the human brain rather outweighs context.

Is context a red herring? Would it not be more interesting to understand what is going on in the brain of the person? That internal ‘context’ is surely where the ‘action’ i.e. the learning and memory formation, is taking place?

REFERENCE

Crook, C. and Dymott, R. (2005) ‘ICT and the literacy practices of student writing’ in Monteith, M. (ed.) Teaching Secondary School Literacies with ICT, Maidenhead, Open University Press.

Tolmie, A. (2001), Examining learning in relation to the contexts of use of ICT. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 17: 235–241. doi: 10.1046/j.0266-4909.2001.00178.

Vernon, J.F (2008) That’s Nothing Compared to Passchendaele (accaessed 9th May 2013. http://machineguncorps.com/)

 

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H809: Activity 8.5 Reading Crook and Dymott

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 1 Apr 2013, 09:14

Reread the introduction to Crook and Dymott’s chapter. Then read the rest of the paper. As you are doing so, make notes on the following:

What part do the five aspects of writing (text on the screen; text on the network; text as electronic traffic; text and the website; and the dialogue around text) play in describing the activity of writing? Do they ‘effect’ writing or ‘constitute’ it? How?

Do you think that the learning involved in writing the assignments, or carrying out the other tasks described, is located in the head of the students? Or do you think it is distributed and situated?

Crook and Dymott discuss the fact that there were substantial differences in the ways in which individual students used resources in one of the tasks (p. 103). What does this tell us about the mediated, situated and distributed nature of the activity?

If you were given the opportunity to assess some of the students’ assignments that are described in this chapter, where would you focus your attention: on the end product or on the process of writing, and why?

Which methodologies would you use to carry out your assessment of the students’ assignments, over and above those described in the chapter, and why?

_____________________________________________________________________

Writing is a function of the communicating clusters in our brain and will produce the same results whether cuneiform on clay, hieroglyphs on stone, handwriting on papyrus, printing on paper, text on a screen or an annotated animation in a video. The way the brain functions is to read it or to compose it remains the same.

Learning is both an artifact and a process - the artifact exists as a potential in the brain and when stimulated can in part, through the complexity, be seen in a fMRI scan. The process of learning takes place as an interaction with the world around us, more people, but also the context and ours.

Quiz 100 students at the OU who study online and you will get a wide variety of answers.

I don't think one approach would correlate with better or worse results either. Students come to understand that it requires some kind of participation with the text beyond simply reading it - so whatsoever the platform you learn to take notes, or highlight, or in my case even screen grab and crop in order to filter, punctuated, and reduced the text - and in the process make it you own.

The end result is far and away the most important consideration, if the result is very good or very poor it might be worth asking what the students did. Chances are nit long ago it would have been exactly the same thing - the higher scorer simply doing more of it, with greater effort and focus.

An in depth hour long interview, with video recording for further later analysis - and a follow up even to this. And stuffing the ethics of it leaving the recorder on beyond the end of the formal interview. This is necessary in order to get some semblance of what was really going on.

A diary or journal kept st the time and discussed can offer insights though some will struggle so a prompt sheet of some 16 or so questions might help them record the facts and detail that matters.

Going to a further extreme, and with any ethical and legal, and privacy/data protection issues covered, to use a SenseCam or some such life-logging device in order to understand what really went on - in particular the context.

I am flat on my back on a bed with an iPad at the moment, but can be at a laptop in the kitchen or in front of some huge screens on my son's desktop. I prefer eBooks and will highlight, note, even comment and Tweet thoughts as I go along.

Wherever my head goes my 'cloud' comes with me.

When I can only have the book then I do as I did as an undergraduate - I take notes as I go along - into the iPad with pages bookmarked with PostIts.

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Tutor as host - its your party and your responsibility to make it work

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 30 May 2012, 11:29

This from Mary Thorpe (2009)

If face-to-face is the answer, how do you  replicate the combination of informal and formal discourse opportunities that characterise the face-to-face campus. (Crook and Light, 2002)

The answer is in social networks such as Linkedin being alerted every time someone in your circle updates, or adds friends or writes something, though different, there is at least an inclining of this meeting serendipitously around the water-cooler, or passing in the corridor. Also the random offering up of 'people you might know', even if they haven't instigated it.

This is beyond face-to-face, but designed to replicate the chance encounter that makes up human intersctions.

In Diaryland (1999) a similar trait is offered as within a set number of 75 friends you always know who has updated i.e. who is active and therefore around and more inclined to engage. All that matters is this sense of sharing the same space. It matters therefore that you are present often enough to be someone in this environment and that the affordances of the platform alert others to your presence.

The debate over the differences between face-to-face are dry

Why hybrid?

What community?

As the two worlds are now so familiar to many people, this is like saying, what is the difference between the Rugby Club and the Bridge Club.

There is no other difference. The means of engagement are ultimately the same, between one person and another. Like everything as you become familiar with these platforms, and as your friends are online too, you accept their presence or otherwise as if you have bumped into them walking the dog or a conference.

This isn't revolution, it is barely even evolution, it is us being people with a bunch of different tools as we crafty humans have done for millenia.

'Technologies, such as social networking, can be used to construct personal learning environments designed by the learner precisely in relation to their interests and goals across a range of practice boundaries.(Anderson and Dron 2007)

Better still you start to allow tools like Stumbleupon and Zite to do this for you, by feeding in a specific, tailored profile you can get these aggregators to draw down who you are and feed back intelligence.

The day we don't trust it we drop these tools like a hot-potato and go somewhere else.

They CANNOT afford to get it wrong.

I signed up in error to MY LIFE, I say this because I only wanted to trial it on a monthly basis. The moment I was on the phone was the moment I was reimbursed, which actually is a sound thing.

This expression, this test of 'trust' might be enough to take me back (except that I feel the entire idea was mine in 2001).

'Technology self-evidently involves tools, understood as both the physical resources and practical skills required to make use of them, but to focus primarily on the tool or the virtual space would be to make a categorical error, mistaking a component part for the system as a whole (Jones and Eshault, 2004)

We still use pen and paper, we still talk to each other face to face, we may even share how we are getting on with our parents over Sunday Lunch.

This isn't replacement technology, it is hyper complementary technology, it is as convenient as having a hanky on which to blow your nose, no more. You pull out your smartphone to share a thought. Or in my case at 3.10am I get up, doodle an idea for a video production and then stick up a discussion question to a number of Linkedin groups.

Serendipity

Thinking of my late grandfather's garage with all its tools, the context would be the mix and combination of tools, some complimentary, some one offs, and the space (once he'd rolled the car out of the garage). Most importantly it would include him, both actively engaged in a task and from my point of view, someone who was always keen to pass on skills and insights.

Issues regarding identity -practice/familiarity

Trust and authenticity (checking/verification) 'Students may not take up the opportunities offered, or may do so to little good effect.' (Thorpe, 2008:122) 'Asynchronous conferencing for example has fostered both utopic and dystopic views of its potential (Haythornthwaite 2006)

The importance of the beginning of the course the same as in face-to-face, you only have one chance to make a good first impression.

'That particular aspect of getting everybody involved right at the very beginning really sets the scene for the rest of the course.' (Thorpe 2008:123)

Tutor as host.

A good start is forgiving. A poor start is far harder to retrieve. The problem institutionally is if your are overwhelmed by students. Are there enough tutors? Are there even intermediaries to step in? 'The design in effect performs a mix of compulsion and engineered interaction that combines formality with informality.' (Crook and Light, 2002)

Too much of either is a killer. Overly familiar and talking about pets and holidays in the middle of a forum puts your off. So do course materials on the rare occasion with The OU when it is if your are interrupting the conversation between a couple of professors who have developed their own private language that only means something to each other. (This isn't far from the truth). 'The potential for expansive learning' (Tuoni-Grohn and Engestrom, 2003)

We all want our heads cracked open like a part-boiled egg. 'This is learning that crosses the boundaries of different activity systems, expanding involvement with others and developing both individual and collective learning'. (Cole and Engestrom 1993)

I call it Pixie dust over Object 3.

Object 3 must be the moment Dyson and his team come up with the airstream device. Innovation, inspiration and originality is there in front of us, like Macbeth's dagger, tantilizingly before our hands.

So talk to Lady Macbeth and your colleagues, let it out, share your thoughts, make the dagger real, You may find it's more of a tickling stick.

'A context has to be reconstructed and participation invited through the use of activities, structured formats and textural genres operating at various levels.' (Thorpe, 2008:130)

I no longer think this is the case. We aren't creating false or mimicking landscapes or environments online, rather we know what these environments are and behave accordingly.

This comes with experience, it IS NOT, and has NEVER BEEN GENERATIONAL.

I am not the only forty something who despite my children being infront of a computer before they could walk have vastly more experience of the internet and computers than they do. I challenge them to keep up or catch up, indeed, I am quick to run after them if I think they are discovering something I too have not tried.

Ask me for evidence, research by educational institutions in the UK, US and Australia, that debunk Generation X and Digital Natives as utter TOSH.

Engestrom (2007) emphasizes the importance of learning across multiple activity systems where knowledge is being developed across many sites, from the formal academic context through practioner-focused websites and fora to the workplace.

Technologies, such as social networking, can be used to construct personal learning environments designed by the learner precisely in relation to their interests and goals across a range of practice boundaries (Anderson and Dron 2007)

True.

But like an allotment you might start as an idea, the worth comes from putting in some time and effort.

A hybrid mix of community and network. (Thorp, 2008:129)

Yes, like weeds in the allotment and a few cacti on a tray of sand in the shed.


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H800 WK24 Technology-mediated learning contexts

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 31 Aug 2011, 04:08

I am three weeks behind on loading content to any blog sadthese are insights from external and internal workshops, two last week, two this, plus a long weekend in Brussels interiewing MBA students.

I get anxious if I don't expel this stuff and share it somewhere online.

I'm programmed this way, keeping a diary since 1975 and a blog since 1999. It is a daily thing, like prayers, meditation or a shower.

What others pick up as I off-load is anyone's guess; there is a theme to it though - LEARNING ONLINE. 

Try Stumbleupon, also Zite which I have set up as my personal copy taster (content aggregator). 

Meanwhile on the third reading I am starting to see the two case studies and understand what was going on in the Mary Thorpe chapter (2009) I am used to seeing communications like this better expressed and communicated with animations, movies, the author talking it through. Randy Pausch in his TED 'last lecture' says how he causes a stir by getting a single colour photo above the abstract of a paperhe wrote on 3d technology. The academic community must move on from paper and thinking like we did on paper; paper is over. Enter my head insted. Dee what I think. Know if my opinions are credible, you can followmy every thought with few smart searches.

When, oh when will the dry academic paper be replaced by something equally scholarly, but far more easily read, shared and understood?

A load of photos would be a good start. A podcast from the author in place of the abstract. Video clips. Comments. Links that never die. Content and references that up date themselves.

2009 research from the IET (Richardson) shows that where students have a choice between working online or off, that they are equally satisfied with the outcome. This says to me the debate over face to face and online is over. It had might as well be on whether you have a seminar indoors or out, or whether you have sherry with your tutorial or not.

Differences are reduced as we become familiar with the technology and what to expect from it. We must accept that those amongst us are at different stages of this familiarity process. 

The NCSL experience might be familiar to many of us. In H807 I was part of a tutor sub-group that generated 109 responses over 14 days between six of us. This, with participants in Hong Kong, Germany and various parts of the UK would have been impossible face to face. The conversations, and responsibilities for the ; were picked up around the clock. I don't see this as a hybrid of face2face, but rather a disctint entity in its own write born from a different seed, as it were. The hybridisation occurs as online and offline activities cross-fertilise, like augmented reality.

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