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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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Design Museum

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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