Metaphors teach us to think and well chosen can, with some caveats, initiate and stimulate meaning. The educator, Gráinne Conole, Professor of Learning Innovation at the University of Leicester often talks of 'metaphor for meaning making' in our efforts to unravel and explain the complex. However, metaphors have an inbuilt bias: their creator. It is helpful to talk of a 'tree of life' when it isn't? Is it OK to teach it to Junior School Kids in the knowledge that they will be given a more complex visualisation, explanation and metaphor as graduate students? Should we talk of a 'War of Drugs' as if beating a disease is a conflict, when actually it is collaboration and aspiration that leads to communities accepting vaccines ...
What do the educators use and what do we participants remember from the courses we do: flat vocabulary, more complex vocabulary, classification schemas or models or metaphors? I hazard a guess that we remember indiscriminate moments of insight from a comment here, a visualisation, a comment, a shared point of view ...
There are many others; do please make some suggestions so that I can complete this list and then add a brief profile. All have a PhD, most are professors ...
Who are these academics in the photo?
Grainne Conole is on the right, so the other two?
- some intelligent educators have sat down together to figure out what would be best for 'us'. For this reason I try to do all the activities rather than question them - often I am surprised.
In H817, the timeline of technologies we did to which learning theories were to be added is one of these (there's more in the wiki and I'll keep adding to this, and eventually have my own version in Google Docs). I could have cut to the chase three years ago - all I wanted to know was how to match learning theories to e-learning practice. I thought there were a set of off-the-shelf 'solutions'. The reality is of course far more complex.
Every kind of learning surely existed before someone came along and packaged as a theory?
The ability to keep learning, and to learn from eachother, and to solve problems is what makes us human and has enabled us to survive and thrive over the last 70,000 odd years.
Turning back to learning theories - there are only a few, at least they can be grouped under (with overlap): cognitivism, behaviourism and constructivism. While 'connectivism' is supposedly what the Internet delivers I would suggest that actually 'connectivism' came first, and is learning as an infant and child from a mother, parents, siblings and extended family. All the the Internet does is to amplify or permit such relationships on a global scale - keeping families close who might now live thousands of miles apart.
Surely we need to turn to Socrates and 'Socractic discussion' to understand the origins of discussion as a form of guided learning?
The simple relationship between someone who doesn't know something and someone who does. In H807 three years ago I interviewed a retired Oxford philosophy tutor on 'the Oxbridge Tutorial Method' (search Dr Zgigniew Pelczynski H807) and this is how he explained it - for the most part, someone who knows something pouring content into an empty vessel (John Locke).
My brother learnt to fix cars from his grandfather, I learnt to cook and draw from my mother, I taught my children to swim and my wife to drive ... this for me is what is missing in most online learning as developed out of distance learning by The OU.
In three years I have never had discussions with Grainne Conole, Martin Weller or Diana Laurillard.
The couple of MOOCs I have done, OLDS MOOC and #H817open have had these names participating, getting away from their research as I see it and showing their true colours as 'educators' (or not). My chosen pattern of learning would be to gravitate towards the expert, something I have to try and get right if I am to move into doctoral research.
An avalanche is coming: Higher education and the revolution ahead
An Avalanche is Coming (not)
No it isn't, or rather - no more than at any specific location around our digital universe. And the idea of a revolution is ludicrous. Do we expect to see guns in schools? (US of A excepted).
Pearson Education want to scare us. This paper is doing the rounds and courtesy of is sensationalist title and its massive quoting of the press in its construction then it will get ample press coverage. Most in academic institutions, some years ago, realised that the change, would be more akin to melting glaciers. Not even of the climate change variety.
I've got an essay crisis on at the moment.
The module is Practice-based research in e-learning with the OU.
The first block and the last five weeks has been spent learning how to review literature so that you feel the authors are credible and the subject has been treated in an objective way with research that is empirically based. There are academic papers and books on the likely or potential changes to Tertiary Education, such as:
- 'Rethinking University Teaching: A conversational framework for effective use of educational technology', Diana Laurillard
- 'Contemporary Perspectives in E-Learning Research: Themes, Methods and Impact on Practice' Grainne Conole
- 'Preparing for Blended e-learning' Allison Littlejohn
- 'Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age' Helen Beetham
- 'The Digital Scholar: How Technology is Transforming Scholarly Practice'
I have read all of these and am currently reading 'Teenagers and Technology (Adolescence and Society' Chris Davies and Rebecca Eynon which took me to her paper 'Mapping the Digital Divide in Britain: Implications for Learning and Education'.
My sober response to this 'paper' starts with the title.
We should read anything with a sensationalist title with great caution. There are two traps that journalists fall into, or exploit, either to say there is revolution or to say that disaster looming. The sober, academic, empirically researched view is often far more contained, less exciting and so less inclined to gain press attention for its authors - in this case Pearson.
I'm up at 4.15 to write an assignment where I have had to put forward five papers and argue for their inclusion to help me get to the bottom of a research question.
I've read three books, reviewed some 60 and read some 20 papers at least to get this far. The research question is set in Tertiary Education.
In the last month I have been to both University of Southampton and University of Oxford - I don't for example, see Balliol College, Oxford, marking its 750th Anniversary this year, changing that radically. The model works too well, indeed, if anything, the Internet will make these institutions more appealing to students. Indeed I spent over an hour on the phone to a second year English Literature Student last night - from Perth in Western Australia, clearly very bright and motivated. She described how she Googled 'English Literature', found the top universities, then chose the one of the leading Colleges at Oxford.
My alarm bells start to go when a forward is written by 'emeritus' - however amazing their career has been, they have retired and their choice may be for PR reasons.
Excuse the cynic in me.
Are the other two authors, employees of Pearson, learning academics? Neither.
Then I turn to the bibliography and I find pages of citations ... for journalists.
In my experience of the last three years of a Masters course in E-learning I have learnt that very few journalists should ever be read on the subject as they always have an agenda - the bias of their paper, the need to sell papers, and the need to sell themselves. What struck me is that NOT ONE of the leading academic figures on the shifts that are inevitable to tertiary education are mentioned here, the names I have given above you may notice, were mostly figures from the OLDS MOOC by the way.
I will read and try to offer a balanced review in due course but fear that the response that it usually elicits in me is the same as the sensationalist titles of these things.
In this case, if its snow then wait for spring and the problem will go away ... and what about all those countries that have no snow?
A few years ago I realised that there was something no right with the concept of a 'digital native' or 'digital immigrant' - both are nonsense.
More recently I've given far too much time to stripping down Nicholas Carr 'The Shallows: what the Internet is doing to our brains' more nonsense that at least has be eager to study neuroscience.
Perhaps I like a fight, or debate.
Academia doesn't have to sensationalise - it has to aim to get it right, prove its case, strive for objectivity and 'the truth' and be reviewed.
This looks too like exaggeration 'avalanche' and 'revolution' are well chosen buzz words that will make headlines in the papers - and it lacks the empirical evidence which is a necessity. (And don't be fooled by fellow humans how have been to Harvard or any where else - we're all human, all fallible and usually have an agenda). Must go! J
I may be wrong, but a little more than intuition says read with great caution and make up your own mind - what would or what do fellow OLDS MOOCers think for example?
'Making meaning with metaphors' or some such is a quote from Grainne Conole.
We did a module that was about little else. We cannot help but think in metaphors - neuroscientists such as V J Ramachandran think this is what distinguished us from Neanderthal - we 'think outside the box' as it were. So, metaphors matter and are convincing and plausible and simple.
My take on the Internet and the WWW is to think of Web 1.0 as a digital ocean and Web 2.0 as the entire water cycle (yes, my first degree was Geogrraphy!). So, no harm to have an avalanche in the mix ... but in this context, of a global system, with cyberspace, the avalanche is just one event or a series of events, in one landscape, that is one tiny part of a vast, far more complex and changing system.
I flick open this table I created in order to review the literature for the paper I have to write ... give me a few days and I'l apply it to 'The Avalanche is coming'.
Nice title, what about the content?
Who are the players? What are their credentials. Which institutions did they represent and where are they now. What have the written since and what else are they known for?
QUESTIONS / PROBLEMS
What research questions are being addressed?
How does the research question relate to the design of the research?
What is the sector and setting? (e.g. school, higher education, training, informal learning)
In what ways is the wider literature used in the paper?
What theories, concepts and key terms are being used?
What views of education and learning underpin the research?
What methods of data collection and analysis are used? (e.g. the number of participants; the type of technologies; the use of interviews, surveys, observation, etc.)
What are the limitations of the methods used?
What did this research find out?
What counts as evidence in this work?
Are there any ethical issues associated with the research?
What are the implications (if any) for practice, policy or further research?
Lord David Putnam is quoted in the opening pages.
He is Chancellor of the Open University, an honorary post, he is a former producer of TV commercials and movies who sits on the Labour benches in the House of Lords. Nice chap, but his perspective is to the left and whilst he will listen to the brilliant minds around him when he visits the Open University, he is not an academic himself. i.e. what is expressed are an opinion.
What we need are the facts.
‘Teachers want support and guidance to help them rethink their design practice, to think beyond content to and activities to make pedagogically informed design decisions that make good use of technologies’.
I’ve just been listening over the OLDs MOOC hangout for Week 3 and particularly enjoyed the Q&A with
The sentence above stood out from the 60 minutes, as well as how this was put into context for the MOOC in Week 3 and coming up in Week 8. Personally I wish we’d had something like this to begin the week. I got in early, did a couple of activities then followed the noise from the active design group I've joined. Give others a turn. Let things roll over. This works. Leave gaps and sometimes others will come along and think, OK, he's done that so I can see how it works, or might work for me. I won't bother with that tool, I'll try something else and see what people make of it. I cherry picked and as this hangout suggests and recommends, I’ll go back and pick out more as required. I enjoyed downloading, colouring in, cutting out then using the Activity Cards. This is more my thing than the EXCEL spreadsheet - which I planned on a sheet of paper then transferred over. I might use an APP to generate such a thing. I find EXCEL somewhat heavy handed, or I’d want to design it in a way that I like. We learnt about the background to 7Cs. The background and context was invaluable. Credibility ought not be taken for granted. Work like this needs to be put on a pedestal and people told of its credentials and worth - i.e sell it to me! 7Cs is an OU with OU Learning Design Initiative with JISC through the Curriculum Design Programme. Activity Profile and Course Map. Trialed thoroughly. Gráinne Conole continued this work with the JISC funded CARPE Dium learning design workshops at Leicester whiuch provides a ' rich storyboard of learning design'. More on this from: Gabi Witthaus Ming Nei More at http://www.olds.ac.uk/ And http://e4innovation.com/ Overarching conceptual framework A lot Cs here: Conceptualise - vision for the course, who is it for, what is the nature of the learners and personas Course features - the essence of it. Creative activity - capture, communicate and consider Conceptual Combine - into course map and activity profile Consolidate - running it as face to face, or VLE, or more specialised learning design tool, or …. From Gráinne's blog:
Learning Design tool
Analysing context: factors and concerns
Repository search strategy
Mapping forums, blogs and wikis
CSCL Pedagogical Patterns
Assessment Pedagogical Patterns
Learning outcomes map
With current thinking on 7Cs Various systems offered and can be tried. Listening to OLDs MOOCers it appears that the 7Cs framework has been received well
- It articulates what teachers already do.
- There are 7 aspects in a whole design process.
- What level are you teaching, what level of support do they need etc:
- Teachers (all of us I would say, educators, learning designers, L&D managers) are bewildered by the range of tools, the range of approaches so fall back on their own content. So use the tools to think about the activities, the core essence of hte course.
- Indigenous Culture on locality.
- Introducing elements of serendipity.
- Activity profile
- Is it the right mix of learning for what you want the students to do.
- Correlation of time mapped out to what students are achieving … so she is poor at communication in Spanish … and there is little communication in the course she is doing.
Is this the right tool set?
- Covers all the aspects of design.
- Getting a taster for these in the course.
‘A huge amount in the MOOC is mix and pic, so take your time, come back to the resources. Six months down the line, you discover which ones you like’.
- Some love the activity profiles some don’t, so find the mix that works for you.
- Some with learning outcomes.
- Some with the content.
- Some with the characteristics of the context of the learners.
- Different tools will mean different things to different people.
‘We’re offering a Smörgåsbord of offerings that you can develop and use over time. Pick the ones that are relevant to you, don’t feel that you have to use all of them’.
(More coming up in WK 8 to act as a springboard to reflect)
- What is learning design?
- How has it come about?
- Why is it different to structural design?
2011 ALTC National Teaching Fellow
- Driven by people in Europe and colleagues in Australia.
- What is learning design? How has it come about?
- How is it distinct from instructional design?
- Major Epiphany moment Sept 2012
- Two days in Cyprus
- Timeline of key moments since 199 learning design
REF: Key books on design science (Dianna Laurillard) Teaching Design as a Science It’s aimed to be pedagogically neutral so that it can be used across a range of methodologies and pedagogies.
- Tools for guidance and support
- Tools for visualisation
- Tools for sharing like Cloudworks
What works for you
- It depends on the nature of how people want to go about things
- Connect and be sociable
- Open, unstructured … to form some kind of navigatable way through, as well as enjoying the serendipity. Having the options of the long and short routes.
- Is something more needed in the middle ground. B MOOCs.
I don't like the idea that somehow technology is diminishing the value of the educator by implying that they have gone from, and may be demoted to a 'sage on the stage'.
The best teacher never did pontificate, their position on the stage may have been as a result of their expertise, surely in Higher Education, if not early.
But for the transference of knowledge to the 'unknowing' student to occur they'd have to be all kinds of things to all kinds of people; sometimes a sage on the stage, often a guide on the side. Bill Furniss who coaches Rebecca Adlington and other swimmers is literally the 'guide on the side;' this doesn' t means he doesn't know hus subject.
Is a conductor a guide or sage?
What ICT allows is for individuals in the learning process to identify themselves by their role, so that the sage this morning csn be your guide in the evening.
In any case, who says the role of guide is any less sacrosanct?
What I crave therefore is a conversation with the sages on the stages.
(see comments in Linkedin forum)
And is visualised in many ways, Engestrom (2007) Mycorrhizae thinks in term of fungi.
My own take is a lichen:
The language you use carries with it connotations and hidden assumptions. You need to make things as clear and as explicit as possible to develop shared meaning and understanding to avoid confusion. Conole (2011:404) Indeed. Conole in one sentence manages several metaphors:
· Different lenses
· Digital landscape
· Navigate through this space
So we've go camera lenses/how the eye sees, we have a landscape that has a physical presence, where a digital one does not and then we have an image of a Tall Ship on an ocean passing through this landscape (or at least I do). You might see a GPS device, a map and compass on a the Yorkshire Fells. Language creates images in our minds eye. The danger of a metaphor is when it creates parameters or absolutes.
I find it problematic that descpite the tools around us we are obliged to communicate with words. We could use images, we can use live audio, but we are yet to construct and respond to these activites with a piece to webcam.
Conole and Oliver mention four levels of description:
1. Flat vocabulary
2. More complex vocabulary
3. Classification schemas or models
Which is the most persuasive? The most effective and memorable?
This set of words is used to describe cloudworks. Only the last stands out as pertinent to Web 2.0 and the kinds of apt terms for e-learning 2011.
Link to site
Request for advice
Metaphors are indeed 'powerful ways of meaning making'. (Conole. 2011.406)
Ref: Metaphors we live by. Lakoff and Johnson (1980)
Over the last 18 months I have returned repeatedly to the importance and value of metaphors, drawing on neuroscience and literature. There are 28 entries in which metaphor is discussed. This is perhaps the most insightful as it draws on an article in the New Scientist.
Morgan’s Metaphors discussed by Conole, White and Oliver (2007)
5. Political systems
Whatever works for you, but importantly, what you can use that is comprehended by others.
Presenting on Social Media over the last few weeks I have repeatedly used images of the Solar System to develop ideas of gravity and magnitude, spheres of influence and impacts. It is one way to try and make sense of it. The other one I use is the water-cycle, but as that can turn into an A' Level geography class.
Some futher thoughts from Conole
‘These and other tools are beginning to enable us to embed more meaning in the objects and connections within the digital space. The tools can also be used to navigate through the digital space, providing particular narrative paths of meaning to address different goals or interests.’ (Conole, 2011:409)
‘The approach needs to shift to harnessing the networked aspects of new technologies, so that individuals foster their own set of meaningful connections to support their practice, whether this be teachers and seeking connections to support them in developing and delivering their teaching, or learners in search of connections to support and evidence of their learning. (Conole. 2011:410)
‘Those not engaging with technologies or without access are getting left further and further behind. We need to be mindful that the egalitarian, liberal view of new technologies is a myth; power and dynamics remain, niches develop and evolve. Applications of metaphorical notions of ecology, culture and politics can help us better understand and deal with these complexities. (Conole. 2011:410)
How do we describe and make sense of digital environments?
It is complex and multifaceted
Learners’ experiences of blended learning environments in a practice-based context (PB-LXP)
Student attitudes towards and use of ICT in course study, work and social activity: a technology acceptance model approach
For anyone this you can ask subject specific question to your OU community on 'OU Platform'
Picking up on the 2007 presentation by Grainne Conole of research carried out by the Institute of Educational Technology (OU) I was keen to learn of outcomes from the follow up research they promised on practice-based learning.
Like anyone with an insatiable curiosity the desire to chase several references or to pursue a topic to the Nth degree doing so online can be overwhelming; it is too easy to find references, even more so when they have a URL.
Time was as an undergraduate such searches meant a walk or bike road across town, the nature of Geography (in the first year at least) touching on both human and physical topics, ranging from zoology, politics and history on the one hand to geology and climatology on the other keep me on my feet and toes.
Studying online the only part of your body that is exercised are your fingers and you’re always a click away from a maelstrom of information.
Increasingly I find I want to stick to a brand I know and a name I know.
The brand might be an institution or publisher (often the same thing): Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Open University presses … and the authors whose writing I can trust, both for the quality of the content and how it is expressed:
Gráinne Conole – uber e-learning
Martin Weller - e-learning professor
Gilly Salmon - all things 'e'
Denise Kirkpatrick - OU Pro-Vice Chancellor
Chris Pegler - In open resources
Agnes Kukulska-Hulme - Master of the M-Learning Universe
For example …
Do add MAODE names I ought to add here (this is just a starting list from the top of my head).
More Interesting People
There’s far more going on than simply technology and it’s a moot point to know when the technology is changing society or responding to society, the two are in a spiralling dance we see, hear and know more – our close relationships are even closer and then those we have kept at arm’s length are drawn in too.
This might make an interesting debate in Cloudworks. It is one of Grainne Conole’s.
‘The old labels of primary, second and tertiary education and work-based learning perhaps have no meaning now in the complex, changing environment’. (Conole, 2007.02)
And this might be interesting to answer:
What does it mean to be a learner in a modern complex environment?
This is valuable, the set of progressions Conole picks out: monitoring, recording, sharing, aggregating information, synthesising, providing evidence, assessing in from form, validating.
And a reminder of the team behind and beside the student as they learn: ‘the student themselves, of course, is the most important one, but also the peers that they work with the tutors who support them, the course developers who provide the course and the environment for them to work in, the senior managers and other support staff who provide the enabling framework, the quality assurance body and validating bodies, as well as professional bodies and, of course, employers’. (Conole, 2007.03)
And there’s more:
‘Education is no longer simple and classified into different boxes and boundaries, for the wider, societal environment in which students are now working and learning is different and constantly changing’. (Conole, 2007.03)
And interesting take on blogging:
Personal blogs both have the ability to provide personal reflective journal but also as a means of experts providing a filter on a complex changing environment.
But has anything changed?
‘It begs the question of does this offer a whole new dimension of learning or again is it more of the same?’ Conole asks and continues later, suggesting that Web2.0 technology ‘is just an integral part of their toolkit that they use to provide support for their learning. They’re also very critically aware now of the pros and cons of different things and they vote with their feet. If they can’t see the benefit they won’t use it’.
And further thoughts on which to dwell:
‘Because so much content is freely available and easily accessible they view it very differently. It has low intrinsic value. They expect high degrees of interactivity. They expect to be able to mix and match and interact and change’. (Conole, 2007)
And future research?
We’re particularly interested in looking at how students are learning across different boundaries and I think this related very much to progression in terms of breaking down those boundaries or silos I talked about before.
We no longer have primary, secondary, tertiary and work-based learning. The whole thing is mixing and changing and interconnecting.
The Smith and Caruso (2010) ‘The ECAR study of undergraduate students and information technology, 2010’ is on objective report, a snap shot in time, professionally executed and commented upon objectively.
Kennedy's survey (2006) ‘Questioning the net generation: a collaborative project in Australian higher education’of the same cohort of undergraduate students from three Australian Universities had an objective, a problem to solve i.e. is there any foundation for the idea of a 'Net Generation', or 'Digital Natives'.
The third type of presentation Conole et al. (2008) ‘“Disruptive technologies”, “pedagogical innovation”: What’s new? is an easy read the style is lucid, persuasive and conversational, as you'd expect from a seasoned speaker.
Each is different and ought to be commented upon for what it purports to be.
The insight here is three fold:
- the different ways information is presented,
- how all three approaches offer valid course materials or assets
- and because of their differences will evoke and expect a correspondingly different kind of comment.
You could say that with each of these in turn presentation style, and the skills at the presentation technique increase, while the academic content becomes diluted, more fluid and conversational. When in comes to comment or critique this should be born in mind; Grainne Conole's presentation would not warrant the kind of scrutiny you'd give a report.
The final step would be an eight minute professional video, or covering all three, drawing in further reports and interviews with the experts and students, a documentary.
Though informative, I'd consider the first and second papers to offer the most calories to a student. The choice is down to the academic team: dean, academic expert and learning designer.
Fig. 1. The Open University Library
It would be an exaggeration to say that were I a practising Christian (Catholic) I feel as if I had just visited St. Peter's, Rome but there was a sense that 14 months into an MA course with the OU that by going to the OU Library, Milton Keynes, I had just done this. The OU library represents the hub, the knowledge; from here it branches out through people into departments, up stairwells, through offices and meetings rooms, forming itself into online and distance learning courses.
I haven't met Conole, Kirkpatrick, Weller or Pegler, but I saw their books on the shelf, which is a step further than reading extracts online, or chapters in an e-book.
Is not taking a laptop into a library an early form of mobile E-learning despite the situation?
Grainne Connole is the 'star turn' in Cloudworks. She is Oprah. This is a channel, a network, a show. To stand out, let alone to be attractive to users, it requires this kind of 'ownership.'
This 'online filing system' is weak because of how it is presented NOT for what it does and can do.
It has the potential to be a social educational campus/network. The key is to overlay ALL assets with an image of the person who composed the material, i.e. the entry into the content is the person or if not an image, then at least the opportunity to add a 'book cover/sleave' i.e. something visual, relevant to the content, personal and engaging.
Facebook has the right balance between form and functionalty. There is a caareful balance of personalisation and prescribed layout/design. (Like a good TV channel, you know where you are when you're in Facebook).
Often I see ideas screaming out for the input of a designer
Here I mean a visualiser, an art director kind of designer, someone who can take the excellent functionality, the problem solving, engaging, satisfying programming/sites - and add some feeling.
We are emotional beings, we respond and are motivated for subjective reasons. We chose one thing over another because we 'like' it, not necessarily because it is better than another product or service.
In time it won't just be an art director that is required, you'll need a producer
... someone who can run the 'channel' as a living entity, as a live-show, that will include video. Am I describing the librarian of the 21st century, an 'asset manager' who is not working in the City of London?
If you give the new bubbl.us a go I promise that some of the things it does, and how it looks, makes it a joy. Every time you create a new node or bubble it automatically offers a different, though matching, graded shade of the previous colour.
(Six months ago it was more child-like - you deleted a bubble you didn't want and it bursts into flames! Now they fade away like mist on a Spring morning).
There is a war going on out there.
Make yourself attractive. People haven't time to compare sites, they'll just run with what looks right and if it delivers they'll stick with it.
See Visualising the Learning Design Process, A. J. Brasher, below.
See Information is Beautiful, David McCandless.
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