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The joys of research

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Buried in Ancestry and the British Newspaper Archive for several days I am finally venturing out to a library because the photographs in the 1916 newspaper article I am interested in are too black to view. The text is fine.

The Keep

My interest, for The Western Front Association, is on the 19 year old Pte William Gallard who died 27 January 1916. This is him posing for a studio photograph in Eastbourne with his father (sitting). 


William and Edward Gallard

William and Edward Gallard, son and father, 1915 before they went to war, William to the Western Front, his father to India.

Details HERE >  http://bit.ly/2FpaX9H

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Applying for Research and Development Funding in relation to the use of digital tools in Further Education

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Steps required to prepare a research question

This from FutureLearn @OpenLearn 

Between giving presentations to staff and tutors on the opportunities presented by the educational video platform Planet E-Stream I am also applying for funding to develop the relationship between students and teachers (tutors). This is made easier because of a pool of projects that are bubbling up across the various different faculties and workshops where I act as a 'Learning Technologist'.

This is no academic post that might be reflected by my having an MA in Open & Distance Education, rather it is somewhere between being a Librarian, IT Person and Learning Support. I am confident that this is a role that will either be absorbed by teachers during teacher training or through practice, or it will blossom, depending on the institution into something more akin to a consultant or adviser. I am having to draw on raw technical skills to use new and popular platforms, but also to integrate digital into a course as an Instructional Designer would do.

The timing of putting in our application comes right at the moment when I complete two FutureLearn MOOCs from Open Learn at the Open University: The Online Educator and Blended Learning Essentials. 

With my inability to let go of academic study, research and writing up papers seems a sensible way forward. This may be combined with completing an MEd with the OU if they can be convinced to allow me 60 credits from the two additional modules I took having completed the MA ODE in 2013. This would still require me to take a further 120 units, to two hefty and possibly one substantial and two shorter modules. I feel I am now where I needed to be in 2010 - working in the front line in education, an intermediary between students, teaching and other staff, moving through multiple departments across a number of sites - I even have a toe in mark.

Preferring a busy life, apparently, over the next four weeks I will be assessed to qualify with the Institute of Swimming as a Swimming Coach. I have been teaching for 16 years and coaching for 10, so this is a case of providing evidence of my knowledge rather than having to take part in formal class or poolside learning. Being who I am, I have of course kept a learning journal, or career journal as a swimming teacher and coach which is called simply 'Swim Coach Blog'. 

 

 

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The delights of research from original sources

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Bundles of letters in the Liddle Archive, Leeds University

Two days spent in the Liddle Archive, Leeds University reading through bundles of letters sent by, and received by the 20 year old Iris Mary Hotblack. These were written and received between 1914 and 1916 and were to and from her soon to be fiancé then husband, a second male 'pal', a friend from school who had married an American and was in California and her brothers. 

They are a fascinating insight into the times, the outbreak of war, the billeting of 10,000 men on the town of Lewes and a developing love story. Iris married the 'boy' she had met on holiday in Norfolk one summer when she was 15 and he had been 18. He was following a military career in the Royal Artillery and was called up straight away in 1914. Alan Morton worked closely with the RAF, qualified as a pilot and was an artillery observer in the air, and on land. They married in June 1916, an ominous time for the war and ahead of the 'big push' that he was aware was coming. He returned. 

Contrary to mistaken popular perceptions most men did return, over 83%. Figures for individual battalions could fair far worse or better. The 22nd Division that appeared in Lewes and was billeted on the town and later sent to Salonika saw over 90% of men return, with casualties split between combat and disease.

47% of men of eligible age did not go into combat. Again, despite popular misconceptions and a press obsessions with photographs of women in every kind of role, there were always a substantial proportion of men deliberately pushed out of the shot when these photographs were taken. They were in the mines, shipyards and munitions factories, they were running essential business and in the civil service. 

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The happy face of research

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Archival Research turned into a smile

Engaged in several months of research I find myself working my way through around 2000 records relating to some 10000 men who served in the 11th Welsh 'Pals' Cardiff Commercial Battalion and the 9th East Lancashire (Service) Battalion during the First World War. They all enlisted in the first week of September 1914 and all ended up, at first, being billeted on Lewes, in Sussex, where I live. 10,000 men turning up in a town of 10,000 caused quite a commotion. I want to know who they were. Thanks to extensive digitised Soldier Records, Census Returns and the British Newspaper Archive I am starting to build a complex picture.

However, this is like panning for gold. Of the Welsh Pals I am finding that only at best 20% of the Soldier Service Records survived the Blitz (the warehouse caught fire) while the 9th East Lancashires there are less that 10%. Simply listing all the men took time enough. I am sticking to around 2,000 men. Even this might be too many as it can take anything between 10 minutes and an hour to research each name depending on how scrupulous I am feeling and whether the records begin to hint at revealing themselves too many. From time to time, once a week, some magic occurs where I find a photograph and story in a digitised local newspaper, the full Service Record from when they 'attested' in early September all the way through to being discharged in February or March 1919. What matters to me is who they were in civilian life, so the Census return, 'triangulated' with as much as I can uncover, is crucial. I can then be certain that this man was in Lewes. Perhaps he was billeted in a public building, perhaps he stayed in someone's house - perhaps he even camped out with mates in a racehorse owner's stable and was brought breakfast each morning by the owner's butler. 

Sometimes the scorch marks, tears and decay on the old paper record is an apt reminder of a man's story: killed in action. Though my 'men' of the New Army '22nd Division' who served in Salonica for some 2 years, for the most part returned. Those who died in any numbers did so on an attack in September 1918. Plenty caught malaria, some died from it, and many were discharged with a disability rating of something between 10 and 50% because of the malaria. 

My inclination is to engage with and seek out the stories; the formal research I am undertaking will be more an evidence based barrister's paper putting the case that these men enlisted for a multitude of reasons: the weavers out of desperation when the South Lancashire mills closed in August and they found themselves with only a few days work a week, or none at all, while the men of the Cardiff Pals were leaving secure clerical jobs and the businesses they ran. I have found stockbrokers and architects, solicitors and council clerks who enlisted en masse.

And so the evidence reveals itself. And every so often a record makes me smile.

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23 ways to a FutureLearn fix

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 6 May 2015, 08:56

The courses I've done with FutureLearn over the last 18 months.

  1. World War 1: A history in 100 Stories: Monash University
  2. Medicine and the Arts: The University of Cape Town 
  3. The Mind is Flat: University of Warwick 
  4. Understanding Drugs and Addiction. King’s College, London 
  5. World War 1: Changing Faces of Heroism. University of Leeds 
  6. Explore Filmmaking: National Film and Television School 
  7. How to Read a Mind: The University of Nottingham
  8. Start Writing Fiction: Fall 2014. The Open University
  9. Word War 1: Trauma and Memory: The Open University 
  10. World War 1: Aviation Comes of Age: University of Birmingham 
  11. World War 1: Paris 1919 - A New World: University of Glasgow 
  12. How to Succeed at: Writing Applications: The University of Sheffield 
  13. Introduction to Forensic Science: University of Strathclyde, Glasgow 
  14. Shakespeare’s Hamlet: University of Birmingham 
  15. Climate Change: Challenges and Solution. University of Exeter
  16. Managing my Money: The Open University
  17. Community Journalism: Cardiff University
  18. Developing Your Research Project: University of Southampton 

Those I'm on or have pending

  1. World War 1: A 100 Stories: Monash University
  2. Start Writing Fiction: Spring 2015: The Open University
  3. Monitoring Climate From Space: European Space Agency
  4. Behind the Scenes at the 21st Century Museum: University of Leicester
  5. Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales:  The Hans Christian Andersen Centre
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Forever gobsmacked by the quality and speed of research using the OU Library

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Nov 2014, 10:48
From First World War

From time to time I am faced with finding the most obscure of articles.

I came across something about the Ambulance Service using motorbikes during the First World War. I then saw a photograph of a motorbike with a sidecar with a set of platforms that would carry two stretchers. The arguments for the use of a motorcycle are made: lighter, quicker, tighter turning circle, use less fuel ...

A article is cited. The British Medical Journal, January 1915. A few minutes later via the Open University Online Library I locate and download the article.

It is the speed at which quality research can be fulfilled that thrills me. This article is satisfying in its own right, but glancing at the dozen or more articles on medical practices and lessons from the Front Line are remarkable. We are constantly saved from the detail of that conflict, the stories and issues regurgitated and revisited as historians read what previous historians said without going back to the original source.

This is how a new generation can come up with a fresh perspective on the First World War - instead of a handful of specialist academics burrowing in the paper archives now thousands, even tens of thousands can drill right down to the most pertinent, untampered with content. 

From First World War

Amazed. 

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Facts in an essays are like pepper in soup

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014, 14:23
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Facts in an essays are like pepper in soup

How do you compare and mark a variety of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)?

We need to treat them like one of those challenges they do on Top Gear, where Jeremy Clarkson - ‎Richard Hammond - ‎James May set off to Lapland in a Reliant Robin or some such and then get marks across six or so criteria. Hardly scientific, but it splits the pack.

So, let's say we take THREE MOOCs, what criteria should there be? 

  • Commitment. What percentage of participants signing up complete the course?
  • Comments. I use the word 'vibrancy' to judge the amount and nature of activity in the MOOC, so this is crudely reduced to the number of comments left. 
  • Likes. Another form of vibrancy where comments left by the team and by participants are 'liked'. It has to be a measure of participation, engagement and even enjoyment
  • Correct answers. Assuming, without any means to verify this, that participants don't cheat, when tested are they getting the answers right. This is tricky as there ought to be a before and after test. Tricky to as how one is tested should relate directly to how one is taught. However, few MOOCs if any are designed as rote learning. 

You could still end up, potentially, comparing a leaflet with an Encyclopaedia. Or as the Senior Tutor on something I have been on, a rhinoceros with a giraffe.

It helps to know your audience and play to a niche.

It helps to concentrate on the quality of content too, rather than more obviously pushing your faculty and university. Enthusiasm, desire to impart and share knowledge, wit, intelligence ... And followers with many points of view, ideally from around the globe I've found as this will 'keep the kettle bowling'. There is never a quiet moment, is there?

I did badly on a quiz in a FutureLearn Free Online Course (FOC). World War 1. Paris 1919. A new world order ... 

I think I got half right. I chose not to cheat, not to go back or to do a Google search; what's the point in that. I haven't taken notes. I wanted to get a handle on how much is going in ... or not. Actually, in this context, the quiz isn't surely a test of what has been learnt, but a bit of fun. Learning facts and dates is, or used to be, what you did in formal education at 15 or 16. This course is about issues and ideas. A 'test' therefore, would be to respond to an essay title. And the only way to grade that, which I've seen successfully achieved in MOOCs, is for us lot to mark each others' work. Just thinking out loud. In this instance the course team, understandably could not, nor did they try, to respond to some 7,000 comments. They could never read, assess, grade and give feedback to a thousand 4,000 word essays. Unless, as I have experienced, you pay a fee. I did a MOOC with Oxford Brookes and paid a fee, achieved a distinction and have a certificate on 'First Steps in Teaching in Higher Education'.

As facts are like pins that secure larger chunks of knowledge I ought to study such a FutureLearn FOC with a notepad; just a few notes on salient facts would help so that's what I'll do next week and see how I get on. Not slavishly. I'll use a pack of old envelopes or some such smile For facts to stick, rather than ideas to develop, the platform would have needed to have had a lot of repetition built into it. Facts in an essays are like pepper in soup.

Armed with an entire module on research techniques for studying e-learning - H809: Practice-based research in educational technology - I ought to be able to go about this in a more academic, and less flippant fashion. 

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Detail at your fingertips

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 1 Oct 2014, 14:11
From E-Learning V

Fig.1 Moon phases in May 1917

Studying with the OU for the last four years it soon become natural to conduct online niche searches for books and papers related to course work. You learn also how to tag, store and gather the information and ideas that you find: this is one answer to that, a blog that serves several purposes, not least as a learning journal and e-portfolio. 

Searching for the obscure, that essential detail that forms such a vital part of the sensory palette used by the writer, is as easy to find and just as necessary. This morning I stepped out one May evening in 1917 and wanted some hint of what I'd see, hear and feel: a few searches and I can see a waxing moon at 10.00pm on a cooling evening as the temperature dips below 12 degree C, and the noise, in this instance of thousands of men in Nissen huts around a camp soon giving way to a robin trilling and burbling in the trees and the sound of the sea washing against the Channel Coast. 

These details are far more than accessories that overlay character and plot; they are what gives it credibility. Writing on and as the Great War rages requires significant care. The wrong detail will throw a reader, worse I'll end up in a conversation about my claims. Posting a piece of fiction some years ago an irate reader told me what I'd said was rot and went on to correct me - I had been writing fiction. I'd said that a character called Gustav Hemmel changed his name to George Hepple and fakes his own death - the reality is that he went missing over the English Channel in his plane. 

THREE HOURS working on writing fiction, five days a week, is the goal . The OU will have me for TWO hours a day (averaged with longer stints at the weekend). That's the plan. 

On verra. Il faut que j'ecris ici en francaise de temps en temps.

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Universities value research over teaching

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 4 Jul 2014, 09:29

Fig. 1 Grabbed from The Times earlier this week

This may be the case but it has not been my experience with the Open University. What about you? Of the seven modules I have done five of my tutors, several professors, otherwise with doctorates in education, have all had a healthy and current record of research. I like to think that they make the time for the stimulation it brings to their practice; that content with students adds something. Those Associate Lecturer's who did not have a background in research made up for it with their attentiveness and love for 'their' module - hard to say which makes the 'better' AL, to be indulged, or to have a sharp mind strategically offering you their insights.

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H818 Activity 3.1. Task: Selecting a topic and title

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Feb 2014, 16:10

Fig.1. Listening to a memorable and evocative 'visitor audio tour' on Alcatraz. Away from the bussle of people, by a nature reserve for nesting ganets. 

1) Theme and Format. Presentation of a multimedia model, QStream, for use before, during and after a trip that might be to a museum, historic property or battlefield.

2) With the centenary of the First World War upon us I would like to find ways to enhance the visitor experience, perhaps for those with a GCSE or A’Level, or an undergraduate interest rather than for the general public. Ideally there would be options to select a level of interest and previous understanding.

3) For this audience Secondary or Tertiary audiences will be of most interest. Perhaps even promoting an MA course for graduate Historians?

4) I have had an interest in QStream for a couple of years and developed a proposal for its use with patients with chronic illness. This is an alternative, though equally valid use for the platform. My only variation on this would be to include an audio component, and/or to track visitors so that content might be tailor to and for them.

5) How an App that spaces learning over a period of weeks and months can support the experience of visiting a museum, historic property or battlefield.

How an App is able to create a personalised experience for a visitor to a museum, historic property or battlefield that enhances the learning experience without ditracting from the artefacts or the place itself, in other words, in compliments and augments the experience created by the visitor on their trip.

6) Already familiar with QStream (aka Spaced-Ed) I checked on latest papers and developments. I searched ‘museum’, ‘augmented’ and ‘elearning’ and from a selection of around 12 papers have thus far read, in depth, two of these as well as a couple of commercial conference presentations of a museum platform.  Based on this the idea is shifting towards headphones tracked in a space feeding a bespoke sound landscape and commentary based on where a person is and their observed and apparent behaviour. One platform avoided the need for any input by the user, though for my purposes GCSE (Key Stage X), A’leve (Key Stage Y) or Undergraduate, even Graduate is considered necessary so that you compliment the person’s necessary learning experience.

7) My literature research approach can always be refined, having completed H809 Research-based practices in online learning I feel compotent to conduct a thorough search.

8) One gltich was to in error delete a folder in RefWorks rather than create a bibliography. There was no back button to undo. I make look at purchasing a commercial referencing tool such as EndNote. Having always felt that online learning was a process I felt the need to have a subject specialism too, for this reason I am taking a Masters degree in British First World War studies with the University of Birmingham. This is a very different experience. A monthly day of lectures/tutorial, a reading list with books to find from a regional university library, and an online platform that makes the OU VLE look like Whisley to Bham’s assorted allotments under the railway bridge! But you do get to meet fellow students and librarians.

9) Audio, without visuals, felse like harcking back to audioguides of the 1980s and 1990s, yet today, with GPS and other sophisticated tracking devices a visitor experience can be situated, to the spot, personalised to the individual, and still be evocative through ‘paininting pictures’ in the mind without ditracting from artefacts museum curators have so carefully chosen. A recent experience visiting Alcatraz, for all its Disneyfication and complimentary wildlife sanctuary cum Native American protest camp, included what I would describe as a BBC Radio 4 docudrama that was intelligent, moving an engaging - a blend of officer, prisoner and officer family oral memoir and soundscape. However, it did rely on the visitor being in the right spot when the audio was played so that very quickly, taking my own route around the island, I found the content in my head at odds, in an interesting way, with what I was looking at: ganets nesting on an old basketball yard (making it akin to a visit to the Farnes Islands or the Bass Rock, also an old prison) while in the distance mulitmillion dollar multi-hull yachts raced the America’s cup.

On Reflection

The experience of Alcatraz would be extended if I had this audio-tour still to listen to repeatedly, to read as a transcript and then to find links for my own research. Having circumvented the regular tour I nearly found myself embarking with the headphones still plugged in ... I'm like the characters in 'Jurassic Park', I soon tire of someone else's plot and create my own journey.  It gave new meaning to the 'birdman' of Alcatraz, for example. And I can see why Clint Eastwood would never have made it to land ... you'd be washed out into the Pacific.

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Prof. Alan Hevner

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 19 Sep 2013, 15:13

 

Fig.1. From the transcribed interview for the Business & Information Systems Engineering eJournal, Vol. 1 PP126-129 (2009)

Found as an eJournal rather than the title of the piece. I'll add him to my growing gallery of 'Who is who' of eLearning.

The fact that an entire paragraph of his interview is quoted by Prof. Laurilard suggests that he has something important to say. In parenthis (Laurilard) and blue (my choice). I will add examples or case studies to enhance and/or to embed my understanding of this.

(See last entry)

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Making Connections

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 13 Jun 2013, 08:42

IMG_0896.jpg

  • Stuff found behind the sofa
  • Mindstorms - Seymor Papert
  • Seven Years in Tibet - Heinrich Harra
  • The Future of Pharma - Brian Smith
  • H809 EMA
  • EPHMRA Conference 2013
  • P.hD Research

The stuff that came out of the sofa means nothing to me. These got shoved down the back and sides of the thing nearly a decade ago and whilst I can relate these bits to a child and our dog I cannot see the moment where the stuffing took place ... or even how it could have occurred. Lego bits got constructed on the floor. The dog should have been on the floor. We never used 'soothers' with our children so I guess a parent visited, removed one from a baby and it was lost. In learning terms I liken these artifacts to the niche ideas of an author whose context I don't comprehend - given my recent multiple visits to various museums it is also like going to a museum and walking past exhibits for which you have no context.

Mindstorms is often quoted and I can see why. It draws a lot from Piaget and even mentions Claude Levi-Strauss. I need to investigate both further. It ties into the work of Montessori too and the lessons we gain from understanding how children, or infants in particular, learn.

Seven Years in Tibet and other books by Heinrich Harrer might be better books that a film. I enjoyed the film with Brad Pitt as a lesson, not just as entertainment. My wife couldn't handle his Austrian accent. I was intrigued by the Dalai Llama and the breaking of rules which allowed his tutor to get closer than court etiquette would have permitted. It says a lot about formal vs. informal learning. As well as the drive of the pupil to comprehend.

The pharmaceutical industry inevitably touches on any research into use of prescription drugs. This academic, business school authored book, without becoming popularist, provides a serious of invaluable insights that put adherence to drugs in the wider context of funding, government, longer life and big business.

I am pulling together the EMA for H809. This segues into first interviews with potential supervisors for P.hD research in e-learning in healthcare.

My wife baulked at the £2000 fee to attend a Pharma Conference - EPHMRA. She isn't attending and will skip these things unless she joins Big Pharma or agency. Her contacts on the phone will provide some insights. Already though I squirm at 'papers' presented for an by corporate players as I cannot help but find holes - critiques being the modus operandi of H809.

 

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The Final Countdown

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The EMA is 12 days away. I ought to get a draft written in the next few days. Meanwhile I am taking a break from the literature review to go through this blog.

I have 165 entries tagged h809. I need to skim through these and add a further tag H809ema. From these I ought to feel reasonably sure that I've not missed anything out from the last 15 weeks. A couple of things I skipped over but I know what these are should I feel the need to look at them.

During this review I will create a mindmap on a whiteboard. At some stage this may be worked up in SimpleMinds and used as the essay plan, or as a table. It'll certainly be crossmatched with the word count for specific parts of the assignment.

At some stage I will edit with an examiner's hat on - does it show that I have been attentive to the 'lessons' of the module? It is showing off, it is a tick box exercise. This is not the place to go off on a tangent or to argue that a different approach is required.

When and if I have time I will migrate some of these entries over to my external blog so that I have them in future years. I think I have a couple of years to do this, but I don't imagine coming back here often once I have completed my studies.

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H809 TMA03 Away

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 5 Jun 2014, 05:29

How often have I written that?

This is almost certainly the last. At least for the time-being. The MA ODE is in the bag and this module, the bonus track of my investigation into e-learning. Just the EMA to go - not just a research proposal, but a PhD research proposal which will be the basis of my seeking to undertake doctoral research in 2014.

If I care to I have some 25 entries for this blog too - rather than using the blog as an e-portfolio though I am finding I am loading everything into and working from Google Docs while drawing from a gallery of albums containing thousands of e-learning related images and screen grabs ... around 1600 in fact.

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The House and Garden have done for my OU Student Blog ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 22 May 2013, 06:42

Pulling the house and garden apart has produce a victim ... OU work has to be carried out in a more strategic fashion, typically very early in the morning before the mayhem around me begins.

The EMA could be an interesting challenge - I'm having a cataract operation. Apparently a combination of skiing and sailing has damaged my eyes  (UV damage) ... I'm yet to be convinced of the need for an operation for 'lens replacement' for another decade or two though ... (I have twice worked a season in the French Alps ... 31 and 29 years ago though!) That an having a 'sun lamp' at home when we were growing up ... and my father even got a sunbed. We always wore dark google wit the sunlamp but would lie on the sunbed without any protection reading a book sad

Despite the above I have devoured two additional books for H809 not on the 'reading list' and ordered a third.

  1. David Garson (2011) Validity and Reliability.
  2. John Van Maanen (2011) 2nd Ed. Tales of the Field. On writing ethnography.
  3. James Clifford and George Marcus (1986) Writing culture. The poetics and politics of ethnography.

This is something I miss, that 'standard text', H810 being the exception. Getting to know one or two authors well has a lot to be said for it, rather than constantly dipping between the multiple voices of the Course Team and papers.

Cataract Surgery

(The above is also an excellent example of a succinct, professional explanatory animation).

How to be put off a cataract operation!

Perhaps this is better

Tips (what I'll be telling my teenagers):

  • Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
  • Do not burn.
  • Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.
  • Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Usa a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours, or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
  • Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
  • Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
  • See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.

Wear Sunglasses

Sunglasses have been popular with people for years, both for comfort and as a fashion accessory. However as studies and research continue to demonstrate a relationship between UV-A/UV-B exposure and ocular disease, the protection of the long-term health of your eyes is yet another reason to wear sunglasses. In order for sunglasses to provide adequate protection for your eyes, they should:

  • Block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation;
  • Screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light;
  • Have lenses perfectly matched in color and free of distortion and imperfection;
  • Have lenses that are gray, green or brown.

What to look for in sunglasses.

(I wonder if I ever wore sunglasses when windsurfing in the 1980s?)

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A new chapter begins ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 8 May 2013, 04:42

Four months into making the decision to pursue this route I have taken my first step towards doctoral research. I had to collate qualification certificates from ancient degrees - which was an interesting experience. And talk to OU Tutors about an academic reference. It feels as scary as putting in an EMA, except that here the result is either pass or fail.

If I can stick to this plan then the full round of applications starts in January 2014.

As much work as possible until September 2014 would be a good idea.

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H809 Activity 11.1 Paper and pencil surveys vs. online surveys ... and the ghost of Douglas Adams

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 20 Oct 2014, 11:25

Douglas Adams would have enjoyed the conundrums and shifts and highlighted the potential for farce and inaccuracy, while throwing up some universal truths about us human beings – we are chaotic, unstable and include contrarians amongst us. In particular I wonder about the sense that we have multiple and shifting personalities and behaviours which are in constant flux and either stabilised or destabilised by who we are and circumstances.
 
In 2001 a diary platform I used introduced surveys and they become an entertainment form both in how questions were posed and what they revealed about the person. As they were public and discussed it was clear that for some these were a performance of sorts and a long, long way from being valid, but often great stories and insightful the way good fiction can be. Adam Joinson talks of people easing off the surveys   – indeed, they are far too easy to create and more often than not these days are for 'data mining' rather than research. You know the genuine survey because of the volume of legalese and the 'boring' (though accurate) format of the survey itself. And they take time to fill in, rather than survey 'quickies' which are likely to be the first stage in a sales pitch.
 
Completing Job specs online are a kind of survey – it was and is so much easier simply to attach a CV, but few institutions now permit this. How therefore do we, the respondees, maintain control over what we are saying and how this data may be shared, revealed or used. Even the OU's OLDS MOOC, only now long after it is over, have I read the last couple of paragraphs saying that the MOOC will be used for research purposes and that they cannot even guarantee that identities might be revealed. This therefore leads to bias in the way people self–select – those who do the surveys having an agenda, or wanting to have a voice, while a significant percentage of others won't go near them (or even have a social presence online). Just because someone isn't on Facebook or Linkedin doesn't mean they don't exist.
 
As for context, courtesy of the iPad, if I complete a survey and it is 'fun' to do then I am likely to be in the bath or on the loo. Or half asleep and in bed with a few minutes to kill before my wife emerges from her study and we both give up for the day. Mood impacts results. People could just as well fit these in while commuting into work – all this has to impact on mood and attitude and therefore the kind and quality of responses. This from someone who will vote red, blue, green or yellow depending on my 'feelings' that week.
Do the problems get 'ironed out' with sample size? 10,000 online responses compared to '100' off the street for example?
 
My experience with medical market research is that different interviewers – crabby, old, blunt and plain compared to jolly, eager journalistic and young has a knock on effect all the way down the line - the nature and quality if the interview to start with - but this translates, literally, into the person who analyses these interviews - say 30/40 each an hour long. The scope for bias and inaccuracy increases - and is then reduced to a summary as no one has time to read the full report. (And even where commercial sponsorship of surveys is announced audiences of professional ar conferences, it has been shown, tune this information out - like warnings on cigarette packets).
 
On time , or late. Location. Kind of recording device. 'Payment'. Rather the same avatar, rather like a SatNav?
 
Questionable when feedback or desire to communicate is presented as a survey – so moments after posting I find I have the response, 'oh, that's an  interesting concern, I'll copy in, or make sure they know'.
 
I have from time to time just ran through a survey I felt obliged to do and given everything the top mark. Just before posting I see that the Likert scale has been inverted or turned around from time to time so I may be saying I thought X or Y was dreadful. I post anyway on the basis that it'll be marked as an invalid paper but at least I have had the satisfaction of doing the thing and in some instances 'getting it off my back' having volunteered to take surveys every quarter from the local council.
 
As for humanity or humour some of the surveys and results in Viz Magazine or Private Eye say more about the human psyche and British humour than any formal survey can manage.
 
If anyone fancies a 27 part 'dream survey' I've had online let me know.
I'll leave the kinds of things created at the frontiers of blogland circa 2001 to your imagination.
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Learning theories, e-learning practices and angles for research

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 25 Apr 2013, 12:09



20130418-220223.jpg

What I have here are four learning theories identified by Helen Beetham (2005). Another book I have, the A-Z of learning theories has 150.

  • Associative
  • Social Cognitive
  • Constructive Cognitive
  • Situative

Despite the appearance of the above I am trying to keep it simple. I could do with a module on learning theories alone. Is there one?

Are they so much specific learning theories as groupings? And just how quickly do such groupings overlap when you consider specific e-learning courses?

In my experience of e-learning for corporates learning designers couldn't say what kind of theory they had adopted.

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E-Book Fail

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 25 Apr 2013, 15:00

I'm reading an eBook version of 'Contemporary perspectives in e-learning research' Conole and Oliver. It could have been the module reader for H809.

Every so often it's as if someone has come along with a digital eraser and rubbed a line out - or a paragraph or page.

Of course I can't tell. What is more the divital pixies have randaomlysprinkled the names of E-learning academics into the text; these I pressume are meant to be page headers for the author of the chapter. Will I get to the end and find that this was a deliberate ploy to make the read a bit of a struggle and so more likely to be rememberred?


'Contemporary Perspectives in E-earning' would be a handy title.

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H809: Activity 9.2 - 9.4. Unscrambling the presumptions of research in e-learning educational practice

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 20 Oct 2014, 08:07

Activity Theory (AT) according to various authors .... , supposes a quest to solve a problem, an 'activity theorist' looking at certain kinds of research, understanding activity system as being driven by outcomes, would therefore annotated the six nodes of the AT pyramid with this in mind.

Fig. 1. Activity Theory (Engestrom, 2008)

In contrast, considering the same subject of research, a sociologist would be inclined to look for power structures.

In turn how might a management consultant, or psychologist approach this? And in relation to H809 and the MAODE, how differently would someone educated in each of the following theories approach the same subject matter: behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism and connectedness?

The suggestion that the theory behind a piece of research or OER from H809 TMA02 predisposes a specific research response is like having an undefined medical problem. In turn each specialist offers a view based on the narrow perspective of their specialism.

By way of example, with sinus/earache like symptoms from which I have always 'suffered' I in turn visit a neurologist, immunologist and dentist. I discover from each in turn that I must be depressed/stressed, have an allergic response to something, need a tooth filled/crowned. In turns out that I have a pronounced response to house dust mite and due to physical damage to a channel in one part of the maxillary sinus it doesn't drain so the slightest infection, a mild cold, will cause inflamation and pain. The response that works is primarily preventative with self-medication of prescription pain relief at a dosage that works - co-codomol and occassional antibiotics. (The above over a 33 year period of investigations that included several other excitable consultants who each in turn gleefully hoped that I might have a very rare condition X or Y that they would investigate).

Just as medical specialists are inclined to come at a situation with too narrow a perspective, so too can we when wishing to study, in a learning situation, what is going on ... in there (the brains of each student) and externally, the context and situation of the 'learning' that they are doing (or having done to them).

Reference

Conole, G., and Oliver, M. (eds.) (2008) Contemporary perspective in e-learning research. Themes, Methods and Impacts on Practice.

Engestrom, Y (2008) From Teams to Knots

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Research Question: by comparing history essays written in 1979 on British and European History 1450 to 1660 with the same or similar essays written in 2012/2013 is the impact of digital technologies recognisable?

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Reading through the remarks on the Crook and Dymott paper (H809) in relation to different ways of writing whether pen to paper or fingertips to screen, I noticed a couple of fellow students wondering out loud if there are differences between what and how a student writes today compared to 20 years ago.

In a box in a lock-up garge, filed as they were written 32 years ago I have sets of essays on both British and European History. I have nothing to be proud of - grades range from D to B. And as we never had a word limit some essays go on and on and on and on ... to no avail. There might even be an F in there.

Are these subjects taught anymore?

1450 to 1660 or some such, Henry VII to the Restoration with 'Europe' another country ...

My daughter, an A' Level history student,  is studying World War 1 and Chinese History, so that's no good.

Surely the feeding tactics of the teachers will be the same? Short spells around Secondary Schools suggest to me that neither Geography, History nor English teaching has changed at all at A' Level in the last 30 years.

Read stuff, take notes, write essays, sit exams becomes read stuff (sometimes online), take notes (sometimes typed into a computer), write essays (often typed up and emailed), sit exams ... where you have to handwrite on paper.

Sounds to me like a serious mismatch of inputs and testing.

The kit may help or hinder. What matters is the quality of the memories laid down in the brain and the thoughts that can arise from getting enough of the right stuff in there.

My limited understanding of neuroscience would suggest that those parts of the brain used for communication and comprehension haven't changed a jot since Gates and Jobs and Tim Berners-Lee came along. Rather there is the possibility of a good deal more 'noise' - so on the one hand even more garbage 'polluting' the young scholar's mind whilst on the other easy and swift access to the very highest quality content - which in the past your teacher would supply with those slippery chemical smelling copies - what are they called?

The task then is to have a process so that this conent 'binds' - and whatever process or processes or tactics are exploited by teacher and pupil one thing has not changed a jot in 30 or 100 years. Time, effort, guidance, persistence ... recognising when you don't understand and having that fixed ...

Of similar interest might be a box of letters written by teenagers to each other at the time. These could end up in a museum one day - but are these asynchronous missives very different to postings to social media, particular as blogs? Very, I would have thought. The immediacy of the technology favours Twitter over the essay like letter sent by snail mail - slow to compose and equally slow to deliver.



 

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H809: Reflections at the end of week 7

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 22 Mar 2013, 15:03

Still playing catch-up after the TMA

Through week six writing and most activities (a few hours left to wrap)

Familiar with week 7 as we begin week 8. I will catch up over the weekend. Perhaps. If it rains a good deal and my son's football is off (again). This will come back to haunt me - with all the bad weather they are moving to two matches a week. The Daddy Taxi might be busy.

For H809 conjured up the 'Perfect Storm of Online Research'

  • Young people, including minors
  • Online - gamified if not virtual worlds, with social aspects (whether wanted or not)
  • Medical - not a medical market research but ostensibly an 'intervention' of sorts that would require expertise, training and sign off for everyone involved.
  • Global - what isn't if it is accessible online?

The good news?

  • They haven't found life on Mars yet so I can keep it contained to Earth.

My plan

  • Set further parameters.

I'm looking at use of e-learning to improve uptake of perventer medication by young people with servere moderate asthma (i.e. they are supposed to take a daily preventer inhaler, like me, I do - they don't).

I may 'contain' the research to a group where in some cases a step has already been taken to amerliorate the situation - swimming. I'll talk to the ASA (hypothetical) and have participants as UK swimmers with asthma

 

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OU Library and a developing understanding of why too many asthmatics don't bother to take their prescribed medicines.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 11 Jun 2013, 11:23

I will never tire from serving my curiosity when I entre the OU Online Library. I am often lost for weeks at a time, dipping into everything that catches my eye, reading some of if all the way through, following up further leads, then further leads until I find I've either circumnavigated the globe, dropped back a century or more or am spinning circles in a slow, spiraling descent through a single authors previous thinking.

I don't need a ball of thread to help me find my way out and there's no Minotaur to slay at the centre.

All I hate is a underpowered laptop and a rubbish internet connection.

Currently my interest is reseach on compliance, noncompliance, adherence and coherence in use of asthma drugs. I should know, I am one. My compliance is excellent. One asthma attack in my teens and I do everything to the letter. I fail to understand how and why 30% of people with my condition end up hospitalised or dead. The reading is extraordinarily diverse, bringing it down to the person, their identity with the condition and unwillingness to take a couple of puffs on an inhaler morning and night - when surely they are in and out of the bathroom anyway?

If you know any asthmatics like this please put them in touch or send them to my blog where I will add notes.

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H809 : Research questions in a spider-map

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 13 Nov 2014, 10:21

Had I known what I know now ... three years ago, perhaps I would have taken more care about what I read. From three weeks of H809 I've created this 'spider map' to use as I read anything new. It runs from Structure in a clockwise direction through to Implications. I've only just counted the number of 'issues' - 12 is a coincidence. The reality so far is that 8 will do it, 12 if I want to be thorough and probably just a few of these if I am going to look at title, abstract, authors. Should some of these be merged? In time these should become automatic. 'Paradigms' throws me. I'm not hot on 'concepts' or 'frameworks' either. All the more reason to be on H809!

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Driving learning for students of Public Relations through blogging

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 3 Mar 2013, 10:30

Driving learning through blogging: Students’ perceptions of a reading journal blog assessment task. (2007/2008)
Melanie James

I'm reading these papers for a few reasons:

  • part of H809 - getting my head around how research is conducted
  • my interest in blogging as more than verbal jamming (my take on it)
  • its value or otherwise as a student learning experience
  • its value or otherwise in a business context
  • this paper as its author came out of 'industry' to work in academia - my hoped for career shift.
  • whether there's PhD research in here somewhere.

(I currently think not based on the papers I have read and a PhD thesis on blogging in business - to ill defined, too broad, nothing that orginal to put online what some people may have put in a diary/journal, gets confused with internal communications, PR and journalism. Is NOT an effective means of knowledge transfer. I'd prefer the expert view - in person. Perhaps where the skill of this loose kind of writing is under scrutiny - stream of consciousness as a writing style).

The uses are specific. The greater value is with those for whom writing forms a part of their career plan.

So journalism, creative writing, PR, communications and social media ... advertising too. As a platform to support a foundation course it might be used to develop academic writing skills. Three years ago I pulled out my 1999 copy of 'How to study' from the OU.

My notes on this are interesting for two reasons

  • noting how the book is laid out like a web page (it is of course the web page than still is a poor copy of the printed word)
  • the pertinence of the advice to someone studying a undergraduate and graduate level
  • the style of writing, that feels like it comes from the 1950s.

'After we've read, heard and talked about a topic, our minds are awash with ideas, impressions and chunks of information. But we never really get to grips with this experience until we try to write down our own version of it. Making notes is of some help, of course. But there is nothing like the writing of an essay to make us question our ideas, weigh up our impressions, sort out what information is relevant adn what is not - and, above all, come up with a reasoned viewpoint on the topic that we can feel it our own'. (Rowntree. p. 170 1999)

Problem/Opportunities Students who fail to engage with the required course readings will be silent and disengaged. This can have a negative impact across all students.

Students who don’t engage with the technology, such as blogging, will be at a disadvantage as PR in the future will include the use of Web based technologies.
Structure Questionnaire taken alongside end of module questionnaires taken by each cohort.
Questions Does this type of  assessment task increase student engagement with required course
reading?
Does the assessment task have wider application than in public relations courses?
Does this facilitate the development of students’ technical skills in using new media?
Setting University of Newcastle, Australia
First and Second year Public Relations undergraduates.
Author Dr. Melanie James, PhD (UoN), Grad.Cert. PTT (UoN), MA Journalism (UTS), BA Communication (Hons) (UTS), MPRIA joined the School of Design, Communication and IT at the University of Newcastle in November 2006 after working in senior management roles in strategic communication, government communication, public relations and marketing communication.
Research Research on teaching and assessment. (Rowntree 1971, Boud, 1988)
Concepts
Methods A formal survey was undertaken in Semester Two to evaluate the students’ perceptions of the reading journal blog assessment task and to identify students’ opinions as to the strengths and weaknesses of the two specific aims of the assessment task. (James 2007 p. 2 )

The first aim was measured by asking whether they felt the task contributed to their learning about public relations at an introductory level through engagement with the course readings and the second aim was measured by asking whether they felt the assignment had facilitated their development of technical skills in blogging.

The survey questionnaire included 12 Likert-type items which asked for levels of agreement-disagreement with statements relating to the reading journal blog assessment task.
Partial triangulation as similar/same questionnaire used for the course as a whole?

Multichoice type online survey completed anonymously.
Frameworks
Findings Only a minority of students commented on other students’ blogs even though it was clearly indicated on the grading criteria that it had the potential to earn the student more marks. (James. p. 5 2007)

From a lecturer’s perspective, the level of engagement with the assessment task in particular, the coursework projects generally, and the in-class discussion was extremely satisfactory. (James. p. 6.  2007)

The overall standard of the final course group project was high, and although not directly comparable with previous years’ results, average grades for the course were higher. (James. p. 7. 2007)

Nearly three-quarters of respondents (71%) agreed that the blogging assessment task tied in well with the class exercises and other assessment tasks (RQ6). (James. p. 11. 2009)
Paradigms A constructivist approach to learning – learners construct contextual meaning rather
than students predominantly being passive receivers of information (Anderson, Krathwohl, Airasian, Cruikshank, Mayer & Pintrich, 2001).

Combining a learning journal with a blog was seen as a way to design an assessment task that responded to both identified challenges and would also foster the active engagement and personal investment factors that Angelo (1995, cited in Connor-Greene, 2000), considers crucial to effective teaching. (James p. 4. 2007)
Limitations Academics unclear of the marking criteria.
Students not familiar with blogging so needed more setup time.
Academic integrity of the content.
61% responded to the survey.
Implications Ways to better design the course.
Use of sentence leads to start the blog.
Use of sentence leads to comment on other people’s blogs.

PR students will need to be able to set up, maintain and contribute to blogs and make decisions about whether such tactics should be adopted in campaigns (Alexander, 2004; McAllister and Taylor, 2007).

This reads like second guessing the way the world has gone - but sucessful social media PR agencies do little else but blog for their clients, some do reputation management seeing what the social media are saying.

Reading to learn has long been a feature of higher education (Guthrie, 1982, cited in Maclellan, 1997).

For all the highfalutin e-learning interactive stuff how much do postgraduates, let alone undergraduates, spend reading? If you study law how else do you engage with the content?

Enthusiasm for the new from academics. “blogs have the potential, at least, to be a truly transformational technology in that they provide students with a high level of autonomy while simultaneously providing opportunity for greater interaction with peers” (Williams & Jacobs, 2004, p. 232).

It must be human nature to respon in one of two ways to anything new - love it or hate it. Academic research can turn revolution or pending doom into the mundane.

'As expected from the experiences of students in the first iteration of the assessment task, RQ4 and RQ5 clearly indicated that the majority of the respondents were inexperienced with both blogging and posting comments to existing blogs'. (James, p. 10. 2009) So much for Prensky, Oblinger et al and the ‘digital natives’ - far from being eager and skilled online, they are nonplussed.

More than two thirds (67%) of respondents indicated they had not had experience with blogging before the course, and 80% disagreed with the statement “posting comments on other people’s blogs was something I’d done regularly prior to doing this course”. James, p. 11. 2009)

So much for Prensky, Oblinger et al and the ‘digital natives’ nonsense - far from being eager and skilled online, they are nonplussed.

REFERENCE

Alexander, D. (2004). Changing the public relations curriculum: A new challenge for educators. PRism 2. Retrieved 24th April, 2007, from http://praxis.massey.ac.nz/fileadmin/Praxis/Files/Journal_Files/Issue2/Alexander.pdf

Anderson, L., Krathwohl, D., Airasian, P., Cruikshank, K., Mayer, R., & Pintrich, P. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives (AbridgedEd.). New York: Longman.

Boud, D. (1988). Developing student autonomy in learning (2nd ed). New York: Kogan Page.

Connor-Greene, P. (2000). Making connections: Evaluating the effectiveness of journal writing in enhancing student learning.Teaching of Psychology, 27, 44-46.

James, M.B. (2008), 'Driving learning through blogging: Students? perceptions of a reading journal blog assessment task', Prism, 5 1-12 (2008) [C1] (accessed 27 Feb 2013 http://hdl.handle.net/1959.13/38338 )

McAllister, S. & Taylor, M. (2007). Community college web sites as tools for fostering dialogue. Public Relations Review, 33, 230-232.

Maclellan, E. (1997). Reading to learn. Studies in Higher Education, 22, 277-288

Prensky, M (2001) Digital natives and digital immigrants. 

Rowntree, D (1999) How to learn to study.

Williams, J. & Jacobs, J. (2004) Exploring the use of blogs as learning spaces in the higher education sector. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 20(2), 232-247.

 

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