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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.


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)


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: 57 Week 12. Activity 2+ Richardson

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 31 Aug 2011, 12:46

I admire the way Richardson picks his way through the CIBER/UCL document and then presents his own reports as a model of social science excellence. He has a valid point, even if I find the stats themselves impossible to decipher. I recognise the research methodology and hope to reach this standard eventually - perhaps with the MRes after the MA?

Ciber/UCL presumes that Google generation is a fact for others to disprove.

I don't support the all lower case choices for the contents – as if written on a Blackberry. Upper and Lower case serve a purpose that aids reading, even more than say choosing between serif and sans serif.

‘The untested assumption is that this generation is somehow qualitatively ‘different’ from what went before: that they have different aptitudes, attitudes, expectations and even different communication and information ‘literacies’ and that these will somehow transfer to their use of libraries and information services.’ p5

The longitudinal study sounds like guesswork. p6

Look at a Population Pyramid.

Which part of it is unequivocally Generation X or Y?

Do you look at a ward, a town, a region, a country or a continent?

When ‘Generation X’ or the ‘Google Generation’ is applied to people its said as if it applies to the entire population.

Perhaps there’s a state in California where every child is born with an iPad in their hands.

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/03/mind-vs-machine/8386/ Christian, Brian (2011) The Most Human Human


We are told that the ‘Google Generation’ are those born after 1993. Google launched in 1996. It came to prominence, six years later? Who might I ask were the first to exploit Google? Not this age group. And just because they were born in the era of the search engine super powers does not make them ignorant of books (or libraries). Regarding these in relation to learning, here again we should challenge the term. Did we not, as children, learn far more from our mother, and parents, and our immediate family. Even once at school, what fraction of teaching here compares to the great period of time we spend away from school.

The language used, as Richardson advises us, could warn of a weakness in the factual nature of the report, ‘raises enormous issues for information providers’ hints of the scaremongering you get in the press. In any case, this could only be the outcome if nothing changes but a) the technology constantly strains to find a market by serving a valuable purpose and b) people catch up, they learn new things sooner.

‘The fact is, the human race got to where it is by being the most adaptive, flexible, innovative and quick learning species on the planet’ says Brian Christian in his 2011 book ‘The most human human. A defence of humanity in the age of the computer.’

This could be applied equally well in relation to the narrative across the Richardson papers, that the differences and difficulties between face-to-face and online learning have largely been overcome. We’re getting better at it, as his research shows. Online learning is becoming more face-to-face in its nature, but also plays to its strengths and differences with technology that is common place, inexpensive and intuitive.

I wonder how much of this I can relate back to weeks 8 & 9 though ... let's go and take a look.

Also here 'My mind bursts'


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The concept of Digital Natives, like Marc Prensky, is popularist tosh that cites Star Trek as a credible reference

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 13 Dec 2012, 07:33

Is it academically sound to quote Star Trek as your source?

'We want young people, like rockets, to "boldly go where no one has gone before," (4) and partnering offers the best prospects for getting them there' (Prensky, 2006)

Click on the reference in this 'Prensky-ism' and it kindly tells us 'opening sequence of the Star Trek television show.'

Hardly Harvard Referencing.

When you read Prensky beyond the gushing plaudits from his fans in teaching, this is what you find. Nothing is referenced. Everything is hearsay. Personal anecdotes pass as fact. Just because he spoke to a teacher at a school somewhere passes as research, it is not.

Everything is 'Planet Prensky in scope i.e. American kids with laptops and iPhones.

As I'm inclinded to read everything I can, I'm also starting to find far too many of the ideas put forward by Prensky as his own, as well developed, often academically sound ideas expressed elsewhere, in earlier publications that Prensky then pointedly fails to acknowledge.

He claims, for example, as his own this notion of ideas to tackle the digital learning environment as 'verbs' and 'nouns' which, for example, is the exact same premise of William Horton in 'Web-based Learning' and more recently (though pre-dating Prensky) in 'E-learning Design.' William Horton has been working in technology enabled learning, computer-based and web-based learning since the 1970s.

The thing is, I find myself compelled to read Prensky. His truisms are simply that; the reality is profoundly more complext and dull.

Do we want academics who grab the headlines or academics who have a professional and scientifc, academically sound approach to research and what they publish?

Is there an inevitable blending of the formal and informal, or the popular media and academia when in effect, a shelf of academic books on the shelves of the Radcliffe Science Library, Oxford are mixed up with the trash (magazines and novels) you can pick up from the airport?


Horton, W (2006) E-Learning By Design

Horton, W (2003) E-Learning Tools and Technologies

Horton, W (2002) Using E-Learning

Horton, W (2001) Leading E-learning

Horton, W (2001) Developing Knowledge Products

Horton, W (1996) The Web-page design cookbook

Prensky, M (2006) Teaching Digital Natives

Prensky, M (2001) Digital Natives (article)

Prensky, M (2009) Education as Rocket Science (article)

Prensky, M (2006) Do they really think differently? (article)

Prensky, M ) E-enough. E-learning is a misnomer (article)

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H800: 14 On why you shouldn't ask your daughter about the Internet

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 27 Aug 2011, 12:10

My daughter is 14 and lives on Facebook, my son is 12 and lives on his X box.

I exaggerate, but as kids who very rarely watch TV (The Simpsons, In Betweeners, Glee, Mock the Week the exception to the rule) and are otherwise online or on iPhones (or the phone) ...

For H800 this is my target audience

Some may call them 'Generation X' or is it 'Generation Y'?

For the purposes of this blog, I call them ... X and Y.

I ask them about if they can remember when they first used the Internet. I should know, I've been blogging about it for a decade. I'll go see.

'Stop going on about the Internet,' I get very quickly from my daughter.

My son is too busy teaching some German kid how to kill zombies. I ask him when the BAFTAs are on (he's hogged the TV). He points out that I can look it up on the Internet.

Then I think

Born in the early 60s. Had my Dad kept asking me about Colour Television and ITV, about the impact of commercials on my niave brain what would I have said?

The same thing.

TV was my reality.

The Internet is my chidlren's reality. Our connection glitches or slows down and we know about it.

I acknowledge the value of terms such as 'Digital Natives' and 'Generation X' just so long as they are seen for what they are - linguistic shorthand, indeed, linguistic necessity. We do this to offer some phrase or word for an entity, abstract or real, founded in fact, or in this case ... not. However, despite the number of exceptions regarding 'Digital Natives' (i.e. the several billion who worry more about food and water each day), lets say it is representative of those born into the Developed Worlds where a computer and an Internet connection are as likely as hot and cold running water.

Meanwhile, it now frustrates me if a book I have read or would like to read is not yet available as an e-Book

I have taken to the format and now look at most books around the house and can only think 'Second Hand Book' shop or 'Archive' as a curiosity for later generations.

I recall my English teacher Mr Aldridge suggesting there was something magical about a book, its binding, is pages and cover. He'd sniff it. I'd sniff it and sneeze.

No books, less chance for the House Dust Mite.

Frustration over the BAFTAs and my daughter pushes me away and Googles 'TV Listings.' I was lost in the pages of BAFTA.

The world is chaning fast, and only our generation can see it .. is there are name for us?

Too laters? or 'just in timers' rather than 'old timers?'

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H800:12 WK1 Activity 4 The Google Generation - True or False?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 16 Nov 2011, 23:57


Information behaviour of the researcher of the future. Written in 2007 (published 11 January 2008). Reviewed in 2011.

Part of the Week 1 jollies for H800.

(This picks up where I left off in the Forum Thread)

After a year of MAODE, a decade blogging and longer keeping journals (and old course work from both school and uni I might add) I feel I can tap into my own first, second, third or fourth take on a topic.

Increasingly, where this is digitised my preferred learning approach is to add to this information/knowledge, often turning my ideas inside out.

We are yet to have a ‘generation,’ (a spurious and loose term in this context) that has passed through primary, secondary and tertiary education ‘wired up’ to any consistent degree from which to gather empirical research. Indeed, I wonder when things will bottom out, when we’ve gone the equivalent journey of the first horseless-carriage on the Turnpikes of England to the 8 lanes in both directions on the M1 south of Leicester – or from the Wright Brothers to men on the moon.

I’d like to encourage learners to move on from copying, or cutting and pasting in any form, to generating drafts, and better drafts of their take on a topic, even if this is just a doodle, a podcast or cryptic set of messages in a synchronous or asynchronous discussion i.e. to originate.

I lapped up expressions such as Digital Natives, an expression/metaphor only that has been debunked as lacking any basis in fact.

I fear this is the same when it comes to talking about ‘Generation X, Y or Z.’ It isn’t generational, it is down to education, which is down to socio-economic background, wealth, access (technical, physical, geographic, as well as mental), culture, even your parent’s job and attitude.

My 85 year old Father-in-law is Mac ready and has been wired to the Internet its entire life; does this make him of this ‘Generation?’

If x billion struggle to find clean drinking water and a meal a day, where do they stand?

They’ve not been born on Planet Google, so don’t have this generational opportunity.

I find it short sighted of the authors not to go for a ‘longitudinal’ (sic) study. It strikes me as the perfect topic of a JISC, Open University, BBC tie in, the filming part funding the research that is then published every three years for the next thirty, for example.

Trying to decide who is Generation X, or Generation Y or the ‘Google Generation’ strikes me as fraught as trying to decide when the islands we inhabit became, or could have been called in turn England, Scotland, Wales, Great Britain or the United Kingdom.

We could spend an unwarranted amount of time deciding who is in and who is out and not agreed.

We can’t it’s like pouring water through a sieve. The creator of IMBD, a computer geek and film buff was born in the 60s (or 70s). Highly IT literate, then as now, he is not of the ‘Google Generation’ as defined as being born after 1993, but is surely of the type?

Personally I was introduced to computers as part of the School of Geography initiative at Oxford in 1982.

Admittedly my first computer was an Amstrad, followed by an early Apple, but I’ve not been without a computer for the best part of thirty years. I can still give my 12 year old a run for his money (though he does get called in to sought our browser problems).

And should this report be quoting Wikipedia?

Surely it is the author we should quote if something is to be correctly cited; anyone could have written this (anyone did).

Reading this I wonder if one day the Bodleian Library will be like a zoo?

The public will have access to view a few paid students who recreate the times of yore when they had to read from a book and take notes, and look up titles in a vast leather-bound tome into which we strips of paper were intermittently stuck. (not so long ago).

Is there indeed, any point in the campus based university gathered around a library when all his millions, or hundreds of millions of books have been Googliefied?

Will collegiate universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol and Durham (Edinburgh and Dublin? Harvard ?) become even more elite as they become hugely expensive compared to offerings such as the Open University?

There may be no limit to how much and how fast content can be transmitted … the entire Library of Congress in 3 seconds I am told, but there are severe limits to how much you can read and remember, let alone make sense of and store.

Is this not the next step?

To rewire our minds with apps and plug-ins? I smile at the idea of ‘power browsing’ or the new one for me ‘bouncing’ the horizontal drift across papers and references rather than drilling vertically, driven by a reading list no doubt.

I can give a name to something I did as an undergraduate 1981-1984. Reading Geography I began I the Map room (skipped all lectures) and then spent my morning, if necessary moving between libraries, particularly the Rhodes Library and Radcliffe Science Library, by way of the School of Geography Library, of course, and sometimes into the Radcliffe Camera or the PPE Reading Rooms.

I bounced physically.

I bounced digitally online as a preferred way of doing things. Though this often leaves me feeling overwhelmed by the things I could read, but haven’t read, that I’d like to read. Which is good reason ONLY to read the latest paper, to check even here if the paper we are asked to read has not already been superseded by this or fellow authors.

Old digitised news keeps like a nasty smell in the wind?

Users are promiscuous, diverse and volatile and it is clear that these behaviours represent a serious challenge for traditional information providers, nurtured in a hardcopy paradigm and, in many respects, still tied to it. (p9)

The problem with the short read and low tolerance of readers is the way papers have thus far gone from print version to digital version without, yet, thorough transmogrification.

We await new acceptable ways to write, and submit and share knowledge that is less formal and to anyone versed in reading online, digestible.

All authors for the web would do well to read Jakob Nielsen on web usability.

There is a way to do it. If it looks like it belongs in a journal or book, you are getting it wrong

Do the authors appreciate that labelling the behaviour ‘squirreling’ is self-fulfilling?

It normalises the behaviour if anyone reads about it. Whilst metaphors are a useful way to explain, in one person’s words, what is going on, such metaphors soon become accepted as fact.

There is a running debate across a series of article in the New Scientist on the way humans think in metaphors (good, can’t help it), and how ideas expressed as metaphors then set unfounded parameters on how we think (not so good, and includes things like the selfish gene, competition and so on).

This dipping, bouncing and squirreling, horizontal browsing, low attention span, four to eight minute viewing diverse ‘one size does not fit all’ individual would make for an interesting cartoon character. I wonder if Steven Appleby or Quentin Blake would oblige. ________________________________________________________________________________

Why ‘huge’ and why ‘very’ ? Qualify. Facts. Evidence. And why even, 'very, very.' This isn't academic writing, it's hear say and exaggeration.

There’s a category missing from the graph – branded information, such as Wikipedia, or Harvard Business Publication, Oxford or Cambridge University Press and Blackwell’s, to name put a few.

Where so much information is available, and so many offerings on the same topic, the key for anyone is to feel they are reading a reliable source.

The point being made later about ‘brand’ presence for BL … something we will see more of with the commercialisation of information. Even Wikipedia cannot be free for ever, while the likes of Wikileaks, for its mischief making and spy-value will always be funded from nefarious sources.

There are very very few controlled studies that account for age and information seeking behaviour systematically: as a result there is much mis-information and much speculation about how young people supposedly behave in cyberspace. (p14)

Observational studies have shown that young people scan online pages very rapidly (boys especially) and click extensively on hyperlinks - rather than reading sequentially. Users make very little use of advanced search facilities, assuming that search engines `understand’ their queries. They tend to move rapidly from page to page, spending little time reading or digesting information and they have difficulty making relevance judgements about the pages they retrieve. (p14)

Wikipedia and YouTube both exhibit a marked age separation between viewers of content (mainly 18-24s) and content generators (mainly 45-54s and 35-44s respectively). (p16, ref 17)

‘there is a considerable danger that younger users will resent the library invading what they regards as their space. There is a big difference between `being where our users are’ and `being USEFUL to our users where they are’.

Surely it would be easy to compare a population that have access and those who do not?

Simply take a group from a developed, rich Western nation and compare them to a group that are not, that don’t have the internet access, video games or mobile phones.


Information behaviour of the researcher of the future. UCL 11 JAN 2008


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