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The power of Open Learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 3 Nov 2014, 18:29

Over the last few weeks I've followed a number of FutureLearn Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS). These have been and are:

  1. World War One: Trauma and Memory. Anika Mombauer. The OU. Just Started.
  2. Start Writing Fiction. Derek Neal. The OU. Week one of eight 1/8
  3. World War One: Aviation Comes of Age. Peter Gray. The University of Birmingham. Completed. 3/3
  4. World War One: Paris 1919: A New World ... Christian Tams. The University of Glasgow. Completed. 3/3
  5. How to Succeed At: Writing Applications: The University of Sheffield. Completed. 3/3

By now a pattern is emerging.

All these creators will learn from the experience. Learners tool will become used to this kind of massive, collaborative experience as well. Quite often learners so that it isn't pitched right - most often in some of the above that it is too 'lite', though I have found some here and elsewhere daunting. None of the above are aimed at postgraduate research students, though that is what some in the audience had hoped for. The writing applications split between Sixth Formers applying to uni and 50 year olds looking for a career change. 

Fragmentation will occur if too many courses are offered at different levels on the same subject.

The appeal of Open learning is that it attracts all types. Those new to the subject should be given enough in the daily pieces of content something to get them started, while references and links give those who know the subject something fresh to look at. The audience diversity creates a stimulating conversation that is never overwhelming once you are used to it. There can be 5,000, 10,000 even 20,000 registered on the course and threads can run to 1000 posts and be updated by the minute. You don't have to read everything. I say 'all comers' but this precludes some levels of accessibility, different languages and most broadly of all those who don't have the kit or network to get online. They have more pressing concerns. 

The content is as usable on a large screen or a small one: on your Smart TV or a Smart phone.

FutureLearn give you three ways to filter the content that most people miss:


In a unit, or topic you can see the latest from:

  • Everyone - speaks for itself
  • Following - those you have chosen to follow on this course
  • Replies - responses to things you have posted.

Once you get a sense of who is there and whether you want to follow all or some of it you can make these choices. I find I follow a couple of people who are incredibly knowledgeable and on the ball, a couple who have some knowledge like me, and then a few newbie enthusiasts who I gravitate towards to encourage - embolden some of the most observant and insightful questions come from them because they haven't been cocooned in the 'commonly held view'.

From a learning perspectives I'd call upon:

  • 'Communities of Practice' (Lave & Wenger)
  • 'Learning from the periphery' from John Seely Brown
  • ideas of 'Learning vicariously' from Cox.

There are possibly 30 or 40 posts on each of these in my blog here.

I am on a national panel advising universities and institutions in the creative arts on how to develop MOOCs. FutureLearn is certainly a platform for some of them. The challenge, which I have seen attempted here at The OU is to create a platform where students can collaborate using visualizations and visuals: stills, graphics and photos will do for now, but in due course sharing sound files and video clips will be needed as well. I like the idea of a motion capture system recording how a student draws or paints, as you would with an elite athlete - there is a way to do these things that can be taught and corrected so long as it is obsered. 

What these MOOCs create, when they get it right, is a hub, or bazaar like buzz of human interaction between the 'elders and the wise' and others in a broad community. It is not always or necessarily the 'expert', the Professor that knows the most. In these platforms it works best when they set the scene, offer some content and ideas, then let the conversations do the rest. I find that myths and half-figured out ideas are debunked and shaped as first one person, then another adds this piece of evidence or that idea, or explains something in a slightly different way that suddenly makes sense.

There a pattern in here for me: the First World War, writing fiction ... and here with the OU - French. I have, on and off, researched and written a couple of stories set in this era: one a woman who flies over the Western Front which I might have spent over two years on, another involving the antics of the young Edward, Prince of Wales which I only started five weeks ago. Immersing myself in the place and the language helps.





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Learning Theories in a mind map

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 18 Nov 2013, 13:56

Fig. 1. Learning Theories. Click on this and you can grab the original in a variety of sizes from the Picasa Web Album where it resides. (Created using SimpleMinds APP)

In an effort to impose some logic these are now grouped and various links also made. The reality might be take a large bowl of water then drip into these 12 coloured inks. The reality of how we learn is complex and will only be made the more so with fMRI imaging and advances in neuroscience.

My favourite Learning Theory here is one that Knud Illeris (2009) came up with - not learning at all, resistance too or defence learning. You just block it. That's how I did 9 years of Latin and can decline how to love a table - I have no idea anymore what 'ramabottom' or some such means either. Ditto French as taught before secondary school and Chemistry - right or wrong, tick and box in a multiple choice each week. Still, for someone who couldn't give a fig for either this approach got me through on a C grade. For French the 'holistic' approach worked a treat - French exchange, then back to hitch through France with some French guys who didn't have a word of English, then got a job out there. Chemistry worked best with my Chemistry 7 set.

Activity Theory and Communities of Practice are surely in meltdown with the connectivity of Web 2.0?

The nodes and silos are too easily circumvented by each of us going directly to the source. 'Community of Ideas' works best for me.

Learning Theories

1) Neurophysiological - stimulus response, optmization of memory processes: Sylvester, 1995; Edelman, 1994; Jarvis, 1987.

2) Holistic - Illeris, 2009.

3) Behaviorist - Stimulus response pairs, Skinner, 1974.

4) Cognitive - Communication, how the brain receives, internalises and recalls information, problem solving, explanation, recombination, contrast, building upon information structures, focus on internal cognitive structures, models, methods and schemas, information processing, inferences.; Wenger, 1987; Hutchins, 1993; Anderson, 1983; Piaget, 1952.

5) Constructivist - Learners build their own mental structures, design orientated, assimilative learning (Illeris, 2009); task-orientated, cohort/collaborative group. Leonard, 2010): Vygotsky, 1934; Piaget, 1954; Bruner, 1993; Papert, 1980.

6) Transformative Learning - significant (Roger, 1951, 59); Transformative (Mezirow, 1994); Expansive (Engestrom, 1987); Transitional (Alheit, 1994).

7) Social - Socialization, a psychological perspective, imitation of norms, acquisition of membership, interpersonal relations (Bandura, 1977)

8) Communities of Practice - The focus is on participation and the role this plays to attract and retain new ‘members’; knowledge transfer is closely tied to the social situation where the knowledge is learned, (Learnard, 2010); shared, social and almost unintentional; legitimate peripheral participation (Lave, ); taking part in the practices of the community. A framework that considers learning in social terms. Lave & Wenger, 1991.

9) Communities of Interest -

10) Accommodative Learning - Illeris, 2007.

11) Activity Theories - Learners bridge the knowledge gap via the zone of proximal development, Wertsch, 1984. Historically constructed activities as entities. Thinking, reasoning and learning is a socially and culturally mediated phenomenon. Learnard, 2010. Engestrom, 1987; Vygotsky, 1934; Wertsch, 1984.

12) Organizational - How people in an organisation learn and how organisations learn. Organizational systems, structures and politics. Brown and Dugiod, 1995. Noaka and Takeuchi, 1991.

13) Resistance to/defence learning - Illeris, 2007

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How people learn and the implications for design

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 21 Feb 2014, 15:43

Had this been the title of a post-graduate diploma in e–learning it would have been precisely what I was looking for a decade ago – the application of theory, based on research and case studies, to the design and production of interactive learning – whether DVD or online.

A few excellent, practical guides did this, but as a statement of fact, like a recipe in a cook book: do this and it’ll work, rather than suggesting actions based on research, evidence-based understanding and case studies.

Mayes and de Frietas (2004) are featured in detail in Appendix 1 of Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age (2007) Beetham and Sharpe.

Four types of learning are featured:

  • 1. associative
  • 2. constructive (individual)
  • 3. constructive (social)
  • 4. and situative.

Of these I see associative used in corporate training online – with some constructive (individual), while constructive (social) is surely the OU's approach?

Situative learning may be the most powerful – through application in a collaborative, working environment I can see that this is perhaps describes what goes on in any case, with the wiser and experienced passing on knowledge and know how to juniors, formally as trainees or apprentices, or informally by 'being there' and taking part.

Each if these approaches have their champions:

Associative – Skinner, Gagné (1985).

Constructive (individual) – Piaget (1970), Papert (1993), Kolb (1984), Biggs (1999).

Constructive (social) – Vygotsky (1978).

Situative – Wenger (1998), Cole (1993), Wertsch. (Also Cox, Seely Brown). Wertsch (1981), Engestrom (), Cole and Engeström (1993)

Beetham and Sharpe (2007:L5987) – the ‘L’ refers to the location in a Kindle Edition. I can’t figure out how to translate this into a page reference.

How people learn and the implications for design

Associative – Skinner, Gagné (1985) (in Mayes and de Frietas, 2004)

Building concepts or competences step by step.

The Theory

People learn by association through:

  • basic stimulus–response conditioning,
  • later association concepts in a chain of reasoning,
  • or associating steps in a chain of activity to build a composite skill.

Associativity leads to accuracy of reproduction. (Mnemonics are associative devices).

  • Routines of organized activity.
  • Progression through component concepts or skills.
  • Clear goals and feedback.
  • Individualized pathways matched to performance.
  • Analysis into component units.
  • Progressive sequences of component–to–composite skills or concepts.
  • Clear instructional approach for each unit.
  • Highly focused objectives.

For Assessment

  • Accurate reproduction of knowledge.
  • Component performance.
  • Clear criteria: rapid, reliable feedback.
  • Guided instruction.
  • Drill and practice.
  • Instructional design.
  • Socratic dialogue.

FURTHER READING (and viewing)

Brown, J.S. (2002) The Social Life of Information

Brown, J.S. (2007) October 2007 webcast: http://stadium.open.ac.uk/stadia/preview.php?whichevent=1063&s=31

+My notes on this:


+The transcript of that session:



Biggs, J (1999) Teaching for Quality Learning at University, Buckingham: The Society for Research in Higher Education and Open University Press.  (Constructive alignment)

Cole, M. and Engestrom, Y. (1993) ‘A cultural-historical approach to distributed cognition’, in G. Salomon (ed.) Distributed Cognitions: Psychological and Educational Considerations, New Work: Cambridge University Press.

Conole, G. (2004) Report on the Effectiveness of Tools for e-Learning, Bristol: JISC (Research Study on the Effectiveness of Resources, Tools and Support Services used by Practitioners in Designing and Delivering E-Learning Activities)

Cox, R. (2006) Vicarious Learning and Case-based Teaching of Clinical Reasoning Skills (2004–2006) [online], http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ esrcinfocentre/ viewawardpage.aspx?awardnumber=RES-139-25-0127 [(last accessed 10 March 2011).

Engeström, Y (1999) ‘Activity theory and individual and social transformation’, in Y. Engeström, R, Miettinen and R.-L. Punamaki (eds) Perspectives on Activity Theory, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Eraut, M (2000) ‘Non-formal learning and tacit knowledge in professional work’, British Journal of Educational Psychology, 70:113-36

Gagné, R. (1985) The Conditions of Learning, New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Gagné, R.M., Briggs, L.J. and Wagner, W.W. (1992) Principles of Instructional Design, New Work: Hoplt, Reihhart & Winston Inc.

Kolb, D.A. (1984) Experiential Learning: Experience as a Source of Learning and Development, (Kolb’s Learning Cycle) Englewoods Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall

Kolb, D.A. (1984) Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development, Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice Hall.

Littlejohn, A. and McGill, L. (2004) Effective Resources for E-learning, Bristol: JISC (Research Study on the Effectiveness of Resources, Tools and Support Services used by Practitioners in Designing and Delivering E-learning Activities).

Mayes, T. and de Frietas, S. (2004) 'Review of e–learning theories, frameworks and models. Stage 2 of the e–learning models disk study', Bristol. JISC. Online.

Piaget, J. (1970) Science of Education and the Psychology of the Child (Constructivist Theory of Knowledge), New Work: Orion Press.

Papert, S. (1993) Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas, New Work: Perseus.

Piaget, J. (2001) The Language and Thought of the Child, London: Routledge Modern Classics.

Seely-Brown, J.S and Duguid, P. (1991) ‘Organizational learning and communities-of-practice: toward a unified view of working, learning and innovation’, Organizational Science, 2 (1): 40-57

Schon, D (1983) The Reflective Practioner: How Professional Think in Action, New York: Basic Books.

Sharpe, R (2004) ‘How do professionals learn and develop? In D.Baume and P.Kahn (eds) Enhancing Staff and Educational Development, London: Routledge-Flamer, pp. 132-53.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978) Mind in Society, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1986) Thought and Languages, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wertsch, J.V. (1981) (ed.) The Concept of Activity in Soviet Psychology, Armonk, N

Appendix and references largely from Beetham, H, and Sharpe, R (2007) Rethinking Pedagogy in a digital age.

See also Appendix 4: Learning activity design: a checklist

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Towards my own theory of learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 Nov 2012, 18:14


How do we perceive and share knowledge? What matters most in this equation?

Society, the institution, department or the individual educator?

Learning occurs at the interface between individuals, between the teacher and pupil, between pupils and of course between the thinkers, the educators, researchers and academics.

This interface is expressed as an artefact: a lecture, a book, a TV appearance, a podcast, a chapter in a book or a paper – as an expression of a set of ideas. This interface is also a conversation, in a tutorial, at a conference or less formally in passing over a meal, or drink (in the Oxbridge experience at the High Table, in the senior, middle or junior common rooms, in halls and rooms where societies and loose groupings of people meet, as well as in studies and rooms). Recreation of this online as minds meet, discuss and share. Informal or proactive groups or societies coming together. People with people.

On the one hand we like to put the institution above the person, whether in academia or the commercial world we rank and recognise Oxbridge and the Russell Group 'above' other universities while, for example, in Law we put Freshfields, Clifford Chance and Herbert Smith in the top ten of 125 or 500 legal practices.

However, it is an the individual level, at the interface between one person and another, one mind and another, where the learning occurs, where the knowledge is applied and changed, and in various forms written up or written out to cause or record effect.

It is at this interface, where minds meet, where ideas are catalysed and formed.

Towards my own theory of learning ?

Or trying to get my head around Engestrom's Activity Theory that fits the bill for me?


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More on 'Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age'.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 4 May 2014, 09:24

Why does the OU put the novice and expert together in the MAODE?

Although I praise this approach and after two years have been a beneficiary I wonder if the research points to the need for greater flexibility and mixing, more akin to several cohorts of students being able to move around, between their own tutor group, contributing to discussions with the newcomers while also being able to hobnob with the experts?

The learning theory that I am coming to understand does not favour a fixed approach.

It isn't simply a case of playing to the individual, though this is certainly very important as some people will favour being the teacher or the taught, or simply relish periods when they sit at the feet of the expert or stand up in front of newcomers. Rather it is apparent that people learn well within a peer group of like-minds, with people at a similar stage to themselves while having planned opportunities to hear and participate with 'great minds' while also from time to time contributing to the efforts and feeding off the enthusiasms of the 'new minds'.

Nothing is fixed, neither learning vicariously (Cox, 2006), or learning from the periphery to the centre (Seely Brown and Duguid, 1999).

Stage one of my approach to reading these days is to highlight, even share quotes and notes on Twitter as I go through a book.

I then type up my notes and add further thoughts either by cutting and pasting from the aggregates notes in my Twitter feed (eBooks don't allow you to cut and paste) or from handwritten notes I take on cards.

Then I share my notes here, tagged so that I can revisit and others can draw on my notes too or take the hint and read the chapter or book for themselves.

This too is but a stage - next step is to wrap up my developing thoughts, comments and other conversations and put a version of this entry into my external blog my mind bursts.

Sometimes an exchange here or elsewhere develops my thinking further - today I will be sitting down with a senior learning designer, one of five or six in the office of an international e-learning agency to talk learning theory and educational principles.

Chapter 2

Regarding Quality Assurance - there should be no inconsistencies between:

  • Curriculum
  • Teaching methods
  • Learning environment
  • Assessment procedures

So align assumptions:

  • Learning outcomes
  • Suitable assessment

N.B. Each outcome requires a different kind of theoretical perspective and a different pedagogical approach. L757

(Easy to say in theory, not so easy to deliver in practice?)

Three clusters of broad perspectives:

  • Associationism
  • Behaviourism
  • Connectionism

Associationist: gradual building of patterns of associations and skill components. Therefore activity followed by feedback.

Simple tasks prerequisites to more complex.

Gagné (1985 and 1992)

  • Instructional task analysis of discrimination, classifications and response sequences.
  • Simpler tasks built step by step followed by coordination to the whole structure.

Instructional Systems Design

  • Analyse the domain into a hierarchy of small units.
  • Sequence the units so that a combination of units is not taught until its component units are grasped individually.
  • Design an instructional approach for each unit in the sequence.

Then add:

  • Immediate feedback
  • Individualization of instruction

Behaviourism: active learning by design. Immediate feedback on success, careful analysis of learning outcomes, alignment of learning objectives.

The Cognitive Perspective

  • Attention
  • Memory
  • Concept Formation

Knowledge acquisition as the outcome of an interaction between new experiences and the structures for understanding that have already been created. Therefore building a framework for learning vs. learning as the strengthening of associations.

Piaget (1970) Constructivist Theory of Knowledge.

‘Conceptual development occurs through intellectual activity rather than by the absorption of information'. L819

Vygotsky (1928:1931) Importance of social interaction.

Interactions – that e-learning teams call ‘interactivities’.

The Situative Perspective

  • Learning must be personally meaningful
  • Authentic to the social context

(problem-based learning and cognitive apprenticeship). L862

The concept of community practice

Wenger (1998) identify as a learner derived from the community. (Aspires, defines, accredited).

Mayes et al (2001) learning through relating to others. E.g. Master Class

Social-anthropological belonging to the community. L882.

Beliefs, attitudes, common endeavour, also ‘activity systems’ Engestrom 1993

Learning relationships

Identify, participate, individual relations. Dependent on: context, characteristics and strength of relationships in the group (Fowler and Mayes, 1999) L902

What was exotic in 2007 in common place today?

See Appendix 1 L912

Learning as a cycle through stages.

  • J F Vernon (2011) H809 assignments and end of module assessment. The concept of riding a thermal of gently rising circles.
  • Various references L923.
  • Fitts and Posner (1968)
  • Remelhart and Norman (1978)
  • Kolb (1984)
  • Mayes and Fowler (1999)
  • Welford (1968)

If ‘as it proceeds from service to expert, the nature of learning changes profoundly and the pedagogy based on one stage will be inappropriate for another’. L923

Fowler and Mayes (1999)

Primary: preventing information

Secondary: active learning and feedback

Tertiary: dialogue and new learning.


Beetham, H and Sharpe, R. (2007) Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age: Designing and delivering e-learning.

Cole, M and Engestrom, Y (1993) A cultural-historical approach to distributed cognition. In G.Salmon (ed.) Distributed cognitions: Psychological and Educational Considerations, New York, CVP.

Cox, R. (2006) Vicarious Learning and Case-based Teaching of Clinical Reasoning Skills (2004–2006) [online], http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ esrcinfocentre/ viewawardpage.aspx?awardnumber=RES-139-25-0127 [(last accessed 10 March 2011).

Gagné, R (1985) The conditions of learning. New York. Holt, Rhinehart and Wilson.

Jonassen, D.H. and Rohrer-Murphy, L (1999) ‘Activity theory as a framework for designing constructivist learning environments’. Educational Technology Research and Development, 47 (1) 61-80

Seely-Brown, J.S and Duguid, P. (1991) ‘Organizational learning and communities-of-practice: toward a unified view of working, learning and innovation’, Organizational Science, 2 (1): 40-57

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 27 Aug 2012, 08:01
Repeatedly I have been talking to people about Stumbleupon, Zite and My Mercedes as examples of personalisation.

There is evidence to suggest value in “vicarious interaction,” in which non-active participants gain from observing and empathizing with active participants (Sutton, 2001; Fulford and Zhang, 1993), also Cox (2006)

For learning on the periphery you need John Seely- Brown, who gave a keynote speech on the subject here at The OU in October 2007.

The webcast:

My notes:

This is the transcript of that session:


Cox, R. (2006) Vicarious Learning and Case-based Teaching of Clinical Reasoning Skills (2004–2006) [online], http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ esrcinfocentre/ viewawardpage.aspx?awardnumber=RES-139-25-0127 [(last accessed 10 March 2011).

Fulford, C. P., and Zhang, S. (1993). Perceptions of Interaction: The critical predictor in distance education. American Journal of Distance Education, 7(3), 8 – 21.

Sutton, L. (2001). The principles of vicarious interaction in computer-mediated communications. Journal of Interactive Educational Communications, 7(3), 223 – 242. Retrieved July 15, 2003 from: http://www.eas.asu.edu/elearn/research/suttonnew.pdf
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78 things to think about when it comes to e-learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 3 Nov 2012, 06:33

Or should that be 64 things and 14 academics ? (a number that could be doubled from our reading lists with ease).


What about the others?

What have I missed out?

Some tools:

  • VLE
  • Forums
  • Google Alerts
  • Bubbl.us

Do please add some of your own to see if I can get it up to the cliched 101.



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Talking about social media learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 3 Nov 2011, 22:03

A call from a colleague with a major corporate and we talk social media learning for nearly three hours.

During this time I repeatedly search this blog, using the e-portfolio that it has become, sending charts and grabs from Picasa and from the iPad, creating a mind-map in Bubbl.us and balancing how the MA in Open and Distance Learning compares to the OU MBA he completed last year and the MRes he is doing now.

Just a phone call. We could have gone to Skype, Elluminate or even Google+. The phone freed up the laptop. Several photos picked up from workshops, as well as screen grabs, were emailed from the iPad which was also running.

Social Media Learning Bubbl.us Mind Map

Fig.1. Social Media Learning Mind Map

Timely as I am procrastinating over the ECA which will be on the use of Forums and Mobile devices in e-learning.

A reminder of how a synchronous conversation can achieve so much, especially when there were items set before our eyes to discuss.

We also discussed (I hadn't the energy to take many notes. In retrospect I wish I'd recorded it):

  • Belbin Team Roles
  • Activity Theory
  • Management Mindsets
  • Silos
  • Web 2.0
  • Learning on the periphery
  • Vicarious Learning
  • Medical Market Research
  • TV Production
  • The role of an Alumni Board
  • Narrative
  • Research
  • Assessment
  • Blogs as 'electronic paper'

It was invaluable to have the external point of view, someone from a global comany of thousands talking about social media learning. Looking at the devices we now have, such as smartphones and tablets, it was particularly interesting to be reminded of human nature, how devices may be used for things and in ways that they were not designed.

Whilst the iPad permits mobility, we often use it when static: in our favourite chair, recumbant on the sofa, even in bed or in the bath. Is this mobile learning? It's hardly getting out of the house, drawing down data on the run using augmented technology to enhance the environment your in. And simply having content on an iPad so that you can using the touch screen to open and close the text, enlarging text, flipping the screen size between portrait and landscape all the time - the joy of its tactile nature. Unable to sleep I use the light from the iPad as a torch to sneak away from the marital bed and passed the children's bedrooms and to find my way downstairs withouth having to put the landing light on.

It also was clear how both devices and approaches to learning cannot be isolated, we got our joint heads around Engestrom's 'Activity Systems'. The technology is complementary, the move to personalise everything through device and software choices.

I'd played Devil's Adocat a couple of times suggesting that 'nothing had changed' only to come away agreeing that many of my behaviours were/are different as a direct result of Web 2.0. I have gone from learning in private, hunched over my books never showing it to anyone to a situations where, more like someone tending a public garden, or at least one seen from the street, people can see my thinking. Ironically, it is the end result that often fails to appear because I'm not about to post TMAs and ECAs online.

Some authors I quoted/cited during the conversation:

  • Vygotsky
  • Engestrom
  • Richardson
  • Moon
  • Cox
  • John Seely Brown
  • Jonathan Swift

To which I subsequently add as a result of browsing the blog and so re-engaging with my own experience within the chronology of the module; it is this, after all, that is to be examined, rather than my knowledge from this and the preceding modules. A learning design fault?

  • H807 You diddle about with every instrument in the orchestra and several that have just been invented.
  • H808 You learn to conduct, or at least why a conductor is important (even if you can't play an instrument or read music).
  • H800 You learn to play an electronic keyboard

I quoted Swift as saying (paraphrasing) 'I don't know what I mean until I hear myself speak'. If anyone has any idea how to cite this please do offer your thoughts.

More authors to consider in this context (mobile learning, forums, e-learning, web 2.0):

  • Haythornthwaite
  • O'Reilly
  • Weller
  • Traxler
  • Gregory
  • Mason
  • Sharpe
  • Beetham
  • Belshaw
  • Hinchcliffe
  • Bacon and Dillon
  • Siemens
  • Boyer
  • Wenger
  • Bruner

Other topics that we should have discussed:

  • User Generated Content
  • Collective Intelligence
  • Apprenticeships
  • Problem based learning
  • Participation
  • Demand Pull



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Informal learning, Google+ and iPads

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 Nov 2012, 23:55

I've set myself a challenge to take mobile learning to the nth degree, 'testing to destruction'.

If I thought the iPad would survive the experience I thought perhaps a jacuzzi or sauna?

Signal might not be good.

In my gap year eons ago I discovered that the hotel owner (4 star) thought it great that guests and staff, including a very lowly teen me, could 'chill' out together in 'his' sauna.

There is relevance and that is the idea of 'informal' learning.

Indeed, I wonder if many OU students, enjoying and enrolled in a 'life of learning' practice in a more informal way then us 'regular' students who (and I applaud it) take it reasonably seriously.

I could knock out the TMAO4 in a first draft before lunch today, not bother with much referencing and checking meaning, grammar etc: and submit expecting to scrape through with a 40 something at worst, a 50 something more likely. The problem I have is enjoying the present too much and even with e-learning being fed the latest through the likes of Zite and Stumbleupon.

Recording our hang-out session may have made for fun viewing.

On the other hand by doing so it radically changes the dynamic. I wouldn't want the student me confused with the business me.

(Four months in to a 12 month fixed contract).

That said I'd love a playback of my slow descent below the frame.

This is the trickster at play.

Belbin I believe categorises people and how they work in teams, I know where I belong! The very fact that it has become a catalyst for conversation shows it's value; where now Elluminate?

I've started to make comparisons in my OU Student Blog.

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H800 WK15 Activity 1 What's the Web 2.0 role of the educator ?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 7 Nov 2011, 22:16

H800 WK15 Activity 1

Read Haythornthwaite (2008), ‘Ubiquitous Transformations’: Proceedings of the Networked Learning Conference, Halkidiki, 2008.

QQ1 What evidence is there of this shift towards taking responsibility for learning by the learners themselves?

There will be those who come to learning online who are used to being in control online, so they won't feel like a pupil entering a classroom, a student in a lecture hall or tutorial, a stranger in a strange land. Rather they will feel it is their domain, at best a shared domain, more like a visit to the leisure centre than to an elitist insitution where those in it have progressed as a result of proving their elite status.

‘Internet-based trends that emphasize contribution, conversation, participation, and community exercise a significant impact on learning.’ Haythornthwaite 2008:598

‘Participatory action has now spread to many aspects of daily life, often brought together under the label Web 2.0’. (O’Reilly, 2005). In (Haythornthwaite 2008:598)

It still matters for credibility of the qualification, evidence that you’ve done the work, evidence that you’ve picked the brains of and had your brain picked over by subject matter experts of a reputable established. It matters for the sake of guidance, perhaps the metaphor of railway tracks less appropriate given the freedoms afforded by the mobile internet, but even a kite-surfer has had to take instruction, purchase the right kit, maintain it, then seek and take advice from those wiser and more experienced.

I like the idea of the Learner Leader and picking up on the thinking of Cox on ‘participator learning’ and from John Seely-Brown learning ‘learning from the periphery’.

Where appropriate, participants come to shared definition of meanings through collaborative, conversational interaction.

Such emergent learning practices reinforce ideas from:

·         collaborative learning theories (Bruffee, 1993; Koschmann, 1996; Miyake, 2007; Haythornthwaite, Bruce, Andrews, Kazmer, Montague, Preston, 2007),

·         model what others have described as the learning behaviour of experts (Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 1999; Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1996).

In (Haythornthwaite 2008:601)

QQ2 Is Haythornthwaite’s account an idealised version of learner behaviour in your view?

‘These new media lay the foundation for radical transformations in who learns from whom, where, under what circumstances, and for what and whose purpose. In short, they indicate a transformation to ubiquitous learning – a continuous anytime, anywhere, anyone contribution and retrieval of learning materials on and through the Internet and its technologies, communities, niches and social spaces’. (Haythornthwaite 2008:598)

The reality is that we human beings have far more important, pressing and natural urges and desires that incline us towards those around us, and from communities with whom we find we have the greatest affinities. As young adults our intentions and outlooks may shift, but this would occur anyway, the internet offering, to use as 60s view of television, a ‘window on the world’.

This statement denies that learning takes place outside the classroom or away from formal texts. It has always been the case that substantially more learning goes on in the home, at play, from family and friends. All we’ve discovered, like the devices that many of us now carry around, is that we are always turned on.

‘E-learning’ signifies a transformation in learning rather than a transition from off- to on-line (Andrews & Haythornthwaite, 2007).

As Haythornthwaite indicates here, the technologies are not exclusive.

And as Wellman (2002) suggests the contexts in which transformation occurs are diverse, with each one having a different stance. Transformations that do not fit easily with utopian visions accompany distributed practices, including outsourcing, offshoring, disintermediation, and networked individualism (Wellman, 2001), each of which entails a general redistribution of processes and responsibilities to individuals.

The Pew Internet project (Horrigan, 2006) reports that 71% of the adult population surveyed turn to the Internet for science information because of its convenience, and only 13% because they feel it is more accurate.

Where’re not talking about the adult population, we’re talking about specific cohorts of students who could just as well be in primary, secondary, tertiary or postgraduate education. Whilst in the adult population who go online 1% actively blog, in the undergraduate student population this rises to 34%.

The dominance of Google is waning; increasingly people using mobile devices (smartphones or tablets) use Apps to aggregate content. The choices are becoming more personalised and informed.

But as with many other utopian predictions about how the open nature of the Net will create arenas that transcend foibles of the physical world; our faults have followed us to cyberspace. (Levy, 2004, np). In (Haythornthwaite 2008:601)

QQ3 In the light of your own responses and experience, does this ‘new paradigm’ indicate the redundancy of the practitioner?

Or, on the contrary, does it indicate the need for a practitioner with in-depth knowledge of how new technologies can be harnessed and with the time to provide facilitation and support to students as they take on these new responsibilities?

Making the time to interact with students online (and off) and having this planned into the curriculum is important. More tutors are needed, not fewer as expectations rise about the degree of engagement with others. Tutors or teaching assistant, event students (not just PhD), ought to be paid to be online as a hollow forum, or tutor group that isn’t active delivers the poorer experience. My analogy is to think of it as opening a chain or restaurants; why do some work and other’s fail? The ingredients and the menu is the same, but the context (location and personalities) differ. Getting the mix right and having the flexibility and fluidity and will to alter things as it evolves is vital, but often lacking. Certainly the idea that students would pay a handsome fee and then self-educate has largely been dispelled. The shift is livelier and less formal, more akin to a summer school, or camp, with everyone potentially present. There are academics, particularly in higher education, who seem to lack any desire to teach, preferring to inform at arm’s length from the product of their research. Perhaps it is more than this, it is like meeting in Liverpool Street Station amidst the cacophony of everyone else’s online lives, then taking a group to a museum then a show while the individuals in the group try to work, try to enjoy a holiday, have their kids, dog and mother along for the trip, and are engrossed in a novel, game or TV show. The potential is to be distracted, or engaged, or to juggle between the two.

The answer is in the hubbub of the tutorial, or seminar, the forced taking of sides in a debate, or informed discussions in a forum. The arguments and scholarship is still there, it is simply loose of the shackles of print and that technologies 500 year dominance of education, which is fast ending. Haythornthwaite suggests something has changed; it has, we’re returning to a model that is pre-print, vibrant, engaged, and live and that plays to broader human attributes and skills.

As Haythornthwaite (2008:599) goes on to say, ‘New social skills, or perhaps older ones now transformed online, become essential for a workable online future’.

Such knowledge bases resemble more the already familiar communities of practice (Wenger, 1988) and educational disciplines that an open encyclopaedia.


Brown, J.S. (2002) The Social Life of Information

Cox, R. (2006) Vicarious Learning and Case-based Teaching of Clinical Reasoning Skills (2004–2006) [online], http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ esrcinfocentre/ viewawardpage.aspx?awardnumber=RES-139-25-0127 [(last accessed 10 March 2011).

Haythornthwaite, C., Bruce, B. C., Andrews, R., Kazmer, M. M., Montague, R. & Preston, C. (2007). New theories and models of and for online learning. First Monday, 12(8). http://firstmonday.org/issues/issue12_8/haythorn/index.html

Horrigan, J. B. (2006). The Internet as a resource for news and information about science. Pew Internet and American Life Project. Retrieved July 5, 2007 from: http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Exploratorium_Science.pdf.

Levy, S. (Oct. 4, 2004). Memo to bloggers: Heal thyselves. Newsweek. Retrieved May 17, 2007 from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6098633/site/newsweek.

Wellman, B. (2001). The rise of networked individualism, In. L. Keeble (Ed.), Community Networks Online (pp. 17-42). London: Taylor & Francis.




Permalink 4 comments (latest comment by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 1 Aug 2011, 23:04)
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H800 WK21 Activity 1c. Web 2.0 Tools for Learning - what I recommend

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 4 Oct 2012, 12:48


It isn't for lack of overwhelming, immersive and engaging content online, especially 'how to' movies and 'clips' in YouTube, its how you as an individual cope with this inexhaustible choice.

Armed with an 3G tablet and sim card will we find we are learning more on the fly, taking it with us, much of it free, some of it guided and paid for?

Taking advantage of participation (John Seely-Brown), learning on the periphery (John Seely-Brown), vicarious learning (Cox) and if you can get your tongue around it 'serendipitous learning.' (me I think).

I'm finding that 18 months in, and having really started this gig in 1998 when from the agency end we were migrating interactive DVD based learning to the Web, that I of necessity must balance the tools I can play (musical instrument metaphor), compared to those I play with (sandpit, training pool metaphor) ... and I suppose those ones I am obliged to master whether I like it or not (prescriptive tools for work and study - in at the deep end metaphor?!).

Conole (2011) invites us to use 'metaphors for meaning making'.

I always have, often visualising these metaphors. Just search this diary on 'Metaphor' to see what comes up. Also try words or phrases such as 'traffic light', 'nurture', 'gardening', 'swimming', 'spheres of influence', 'hub', 'serendipity' as well as 'water' and 'water-cycle'.

I therefore offer the following:

Linkedin (For Forums, like this, in groups and networks)

Wordpress (for blogging, sharing, wiki like affordances, training, updates)

iPad (or Tablet) (Whilst PCs and Laptops have considerable power and versatility

Twitter (only for niche/target live discussions or quasi-synchronous conversations.

The rest of it is 'Twitter Twaddle'

Spam of the worst kind being pumped out by pre-assigned links as CoTweets or random disconnected thoughts. This is killing some forums where RSS feeds of this stuff overwhelms any chance of a conversation).

I've seen two Forums killed, temporarily I hope, by this stuff, the largest victim being the Oxford University Alumni group.

I believe it is simply the case of a new moderator niavely permitting Twitter feeds in on a discussion, ie. having the conversations between 30 disrupted by the disconnected chattering of 300.

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h800: 34 Vicarious Learning (Wk Activity 4)

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 13 Nov 2011, 10:32

There is no need for me to plug gaps - there aren't any.

There have been choices to make throough-out H800 wks 1-5. For the TMA01 we are to comment, 500 words each, on THREE activities (with a couple of exclusions which are required four the FOURTH part of the TMA).

Content to cover the ground and ill for the best part of three weeks I wasn't going to do my old thing of 'do everything' choose later ...

However, I thought this reading nmight be part of the 'compulsory' component on 'metaphor' in learning.

In fact, I find it a separate line of thinking entirely, far more pragmatic, and not even complemenetary to the idea of metaphor, though vital the thoughts we are developing on 'Acquisition' and 'participation' for the simple reason that this discussion wraps them up in one activity called 'Vicarious Learning'.

I found this diversion highly information, indeed so much so , that I feel without it I could not have come to my current level of appreciation of acquisition and participation, that instead of separate staged entities, they can be bound together in a single experience.

This idea of ‘vicarious learning’ has been popular with educational researchers as a topic since 1993 and originally formed part of Bandura’s (1977) work.

It is of course what happens all around – we learn by default, by observing others being taught, and either struggling or succeeding at a task or with a concept. Has human kind not done this always? You learn from your parents, siblings and peers, from uncles and aunts, elders and others in your immediate community and from any group or community your are sent to or put into in order to learn.

The suggestions it that ‘observed behaviours are reinforced’ … with a bias in favour of positive reinforcement of ‘good behaviour or outcomes’ rather than poo behaviour and none or negative outcomes. I wish I believed this to be the case and will need to see the research. There are always exceptions to the rule, people who pick up the bad habits and the way NOT to do a thing, or through their contrary nature deliberately go against the grain (though by doing so their formal learning would soon be ended).

Is observation ‘participation’ ? Surely it is?

Yes I learn as ‘one removed as it were’ from the interaction they are watching. Indeed, it is ‘acquisition’ too.

Reading this puts a wry smile on my face because of the way the language of e-learning has settled down, we come to accommodate phrases and ways of putting things that make sense to all in a less cumbersome fashion than this – it is the nature of language. ‘web-based generic shell designed to accept data from any discipline that has cases’.

The PATSy system looked at/looks at:

· Developmental reading disorder

· Neuropsychology

· Neurology/medical rehabilitation

· Speech and language pathologies

It is a:

· A multimedia database/resource.

· + virtual patients

· Clinical reasoning and diagnosis

‘Results showed that online interactions with PATSy were positively correlated with end-of-term learning outcome measures.’

It is helpful where students struggle to articulate their misunderstanding.

TDD (task-directed discussion)

Useful for reflection.

Especially to reveal what a student DOESN’T know, not what they DO know.

It provides:

· A multi-media database

· Discussion tools

· Reading resources

It operates:

· At a distance (does it say)

· On campus but working alone (clinical)

· As observers of learners and as learners themselves.


Cox, R. (2006) Vicarious Learning and Case-based Teaching of Clinical Reasoning Skills (2004–2006) [online], http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ esrcinfocentre/ viewawardpage.aspx?awardnumber=RES-139-25-0127 [(last accessed 10 March 2011).

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