We're considering the nature of 'openness' in education as part of this new Master of Arts in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) module.
This is increasingly about ease of access to information, all of it, uncensored.
Often for ease of access and to gain a qualification with a marketable value, information that is packaged in books, journals and lectures, though increasingly in 'sexier' interactive and multimedia forms with the related 'scaffolding' that comes with learning design and planning. The natural tendency is to consider the hectic last decade of the Internet at the expense of the history of openness in access to information and an education over the last century.
A hundred years ago all but the most privileged were in the dark: leaving school after an elementary education, with reliance on biased newspapers, magazines and part works. Libraries, BBC radio and affordable paperbacks, secondary then tertiary education, cinema and TV have each had a role to play, as has the Open University.
Does enlightenment come with access?
What does it say of power of information and ideas where access is controlled, as in China? Does connectedness within openness lead to even greater coalescing of likeminds in cliques, reinforcing stereotypical biases rather than exposing them to valid alternative views?
Nothing is straightforward when it comes to people - heterogenous by design, homogenous by inclination.
Fig.1. Miro - Barcelona
A lifelong love in art galleries yet I still feel unmoved (most of the time) by galleries and museums, possibly because I expect the gentle, guiding voice of my late mother at my shoulder (artist, art historian, Mum).
What could be a more personalised visit than to have someone who knows you so well point things out, guide you to things that will interest or irritate, then offer an insight - invariably linked to 'what do you do next?' i.e. look, learn then apply.
I take heart from the exceptions, only two visits I can think of though:
'In Flanders Fields' - you need a day to yourself to take this in. The most shocking moment entering a funnel like fixture, looking around then twisting your head up to see sets of photographs of mutilated combatants. It put your physically in a demanding postion to view them. Then the multi-media displays, not just actors giving accounts, but the ultimate before and after shots of places using satelitte images and old aerial photos.
'Alcatraz' - on many levels the visit irritated me, partly the Disneyfication and advance booking, then the many layers of the islands as bird sanctuary, prison and Native American conquest. What impressed though was the brilliant audio guide - BBC at its very best might be the way to describe it. Very carefully and sensitively juxtapositioning of interviews with former inmates, guards, and family members of guards/governor which between them created a sense or atmosphere of the place like some kind of hideous monastic retreat.
So how do we 'recreate' battlefields" We have the 750th of the Battle of Lewes here in East Sussex next year, as well as us all having five or more years of the run up to, the war and aftermath of 1914-1918.
The opportunity exists to use smart devices to give visitors and pilgrims an enhanced, personalised and lasting memory of these places - but how?
Ones to watch:
- Academic publishers
- University Faculties
- Research in and of faculties.
- Initiatives to give eReaders preloaded with course books to students.
- Proactive use of eReaders by learners, say junior doctors.
- Research in schools. Related research on mobile learning.
- Drivers include cost savings.
The purchase of books and their distribution is expensive compared to digital versions that are easily uploaded and include a multitude of affordances:
- book marking,
- searching ...
Whilst digital versions of millions of books, journals and papers increase access and scope of reading, developers are producing new interactive, multimedia formats even blending eBooks into the learning process with assessment and student analysis through quizzes and games.
A student can find rapidly from vast sources the material they need to see, though distraction is an issue. They can fast track through 'reading', branch out or study something else in parallel.
Has this been cornered by Martin Weller?
The Institute of Educational
Technology at the OU is a leader.
Ones to watch:
- Paul Anderson
- Graine Conole
- Tim O'Reilly
- Eileen Scanlon
- John Seely Brown
- George Siemens
- Clay Shirky
- Rhona Sharpe
- M Wesch
- Adam Greenfield
- Brian Kelly
- Stephen Heppel
Ones to follow:
- Martin Weller
- Helen Beetham
- Rhona Sharpe
- Allison Littlejohn
- Chris Pegler
- Sara De Frietas
Open Access: Guardian Higher Education Network
Martin Bean, OU Vice Chancellor: We are at the Napster moment in Higher Education
Martin Bean Key Note - notes from the 2012 HEA conference.
If there is a transcript please let me know!
I took a couple of hours as part of H818:The networked practitioner to follow this presentation closely. It makes you proud to be an OU student, or in my case now, an OU Graduate. Our Vice Chancellor, better perhaps than any other, has an inspired and informed, and often witty outlook on the future of education.
He makes the point that technology in education has everything to do with brain-ware, not software,. that 'we thought our job was done when we got people plugged in'.
He calls for educators in tertiary education to 'do the right thing by our student'
Technology is the enabler - it still requires great teaching.
He is at pains to point out that our approach to education is stuck in the past, that it is NOT about rote learning to regurgitate in an exam, but helping students make sense of the information available to them.
He is HIGHLY critical of research students who rely on the top 15 hits in Google Search and Wikipedia.
His handle on the current student is insightful. He makes the point that 'they want to blend their digital lifestyles with their learning - rather they would say it is 'just the way they live'.
We need to create a trusting environment where the student can challenge the information.
There needs to be deconstruction and reconstruction of the pedagogy to make it more relevant
He calls for the 'sage on the stage to coach on the side'.
Our National Surveys say that our students want to spend time with us.
This human component is crucial for success and retention.
Martin Bean asks, 'what would Steve Jobs do?'
- People and process remain more important than the technology
- What the OU does: relevant, personalised, engaging learning.
How do we inspire people in those informal moments?
The OU are lucky and unique to be able to work with the BBC on productions like the Frozen Planet ...
- YouTube as an open education repository
- iTunes - 1:33 come in to find out more
- Apple authoring tools
The value and opportunity of mobile
- Akash - a tablet in India running on Android for under £50, so cheaper to give students one of these and access to the Internet than buy academic books.
- 400 eBooks. e.g. Schubert's poems, listening to music, seeing the manuscript, reading annotations then looking at the original handwritten manuscript ...
How do we as educators do what we do so well?
- MOOCs - engagement of hundreds of thousands, if not millions in meaningful ways.
- More than anything esle technology creates access
We are at the Napster moment in Higher Education
See the Hewlett Foundation website for the scale of OERs. 12,000 hours of OU Open Learn for example.
Nurturing powerful communities of learning
- Break the content down into shorter milestones
- Qualifications with market currency
Collaboration amongst strangers is a tricky one. I've seen it work and I've seen it fail.
1) It requires scaffolding in the form of rules, or guidelines, mentor or leaders, and incintives in the form of punishedments and rewards i.e. the risk of failure as well as recognition and some kind of reward (which might be a qualification, a monetary award, or part of a completed artefact, or pleasure of participation).
2) It requires people with an obsessive common interest; I don't believe having a common interest is enough. There needs to be an obsession, which means that the level of expertise can be mixed, indeed, thinking of the John Seely Brown concept of 'learning from the periphery' this might be best as invariably the natural human response IS to support those on the edge. The classic example is the young and eager student or junior employee keen to learn from his or her elders.
My concern with the role of collaboration in a module on e-learning is that the above don't fully apply. We are not GCSE or A'Level students. Most are MA ODE students who need this towards their MA, but I'll stick my head out and say the pass mark is, in my opinion, is too low. I'll always think of anything under 50 as a fail ... so I personally would have had to retake or resubmit my EMA for the first two modules I took (I submitted journalistic, even blog like pieces as I'd yet to get to grips with the rigours of submitting an academic paper).
To my tutor group I've posted too long a piece on a collaborative exercise I have been doing on and off for the best part of twenty year - I'm researching and writing my grandfather's memoir from the First World War. The Internet has exposed me (in a good way) to several sleuths.
I can however give an example of the learning design MOOC earlier this year that whilst having a good deal of scaffolding and human support relied on strangers each coming up with project ideas then joining forces to complete one. In a rush of activity, with some big name e-learning folk and too much formal theorizing, reading and activities to groups formed. I had no takers and joined a group of three that became five, but very quickythis became two of us ... we gamefully pressed on but at some stage felt we were missing out on the real action so eventualy pulled out as active participants.
Amateur dramatics, even volunteer cricket, to take a couple of examples, work because the show is the collective reward. We have bonfire societies here in Lewes that rely on volunteers too - thugh the complaint will be that it is always the same handful of people who do everything.
I believe that the First World War, now that I am an active member of a society and studying it on a formal course, is largelly of the type 2 participant. We are 'trainsporters' in that nerdy, glazed eye way - with specialists who know everything about uniforms, or tunnelling, or submarines, or dental decay on the Western Front, or a particular general, or like me - a grandfather, or greatgrandfather who was a combatant.
My worry about e-learning as a collaborative arena is that it is the process, so we are a cookery or gardening club. However, there is significant variation in each of these - vegetarian cooks, cupcake bake off specialists and Heston Blomenfal wannabes - amongst the gardens their are PhD research students growing dwark barley and weekenders who've keep an allotment. Whilst we have interst and the module to sustain us, only in a conort of 1000 or more would for some, there be enough likeminds to form a team.
I'm off to the School of Communication Arts in London. It operates from a workshop like open studio. Students are put into pairs to work. There is collaboration here between an art director (visualiser) and copywriter (words). Whether students are forever looking each other's shoulders when they are working on a competitive brief is another matter. I've noticed how one creative brief given to the whole studio has now become three. What is more, the 'collaboration' as such, comes from a couple ofcfull time tutors, principal and then a 'mentors' who go in as a sounding board cum catalyst cum different voice or perspective. What these people are doing is 'creative problem solving'.
Why, historically, does one band stay together while another falls apart? Collaboration is a tricky business - and maybe only in a business setting between employer and employee, or between contractor and client can it be sustained?
Fig.1 Posing for a scamp at the School of Communication Arts, 1987
H818 Activity 2.1
I will only publish in open access journals.
I'm not a professional academic. Should I publish then I imagine the calibre of the journal will count for something. As a professional writer (copy, scripts, speaches), with exception of blogging I am used to being paid for my words.
I will share all learning material that I create and own openly online.
From the moment I started to blog I have been part of self-help groups 'publishing' openly on everything from blogging to creative writing, swimming teaching and coaching, social media, the First Worldd War and e-learning. My goal over the next year or so is to produce under a Creative Commons module a series of 30 to 1500+ micro- OERs, one minute pieces with Q&A attached, as what Chris Pegler terms 'Lego Techno Bricks'.
I maintain an online social media identity as a core part of my professional identity.
It lacks professionalism as I don't edit it or write to a definable audience but I have a substantial e-learning blog that largelly, though not exclusively, draws on my MA ODE experiences (in fact I started on the MA ODL in 2001 and blogged on that too). I use Google+, Linkedin and Twitter haphazardly by pushing blog content to actual and potential commentators, participants and followers.
I take a pragmatic approach and release some resources openly if it’s not too much extra work.
I come from corporate communications where created content is closed to employees.
I have concerns about intellectual property and releasing my content openly.
Actual words of fiction I write is my copyright, Factual I care less about. Whilst a blog is largelly like a recorded conversation, a formal paper would need to be recognied in the appropriate way.
I will share all material that I create and own openly online, as soon as I create it.
No. I cannot hope to earn a living or sustain my interests if I cannot both charge for my time and my ouput.
I'm getting a sense of deja vu as the rhythm of this module reveals itself.
Openness comes with some caveats. It is not everyone's cup of tea.
As people we may change or behaviour in different environments.
I am not saying that we as individuals necessarily behave in the same way in an Open Studio online (a virtual studio no less) than we do or would in an open studio, as in a collective in a workshop or 'atelier' that is 'exposed' to fellow artists - but is nonetheless human interaction with all the usual undercurrents.
What I believe will not work is to put a gaggle of creators in the same room and expect them to collaborate.
The studios of the 'open' type that I am aware of are either the classic Renaissance workshop with a master artist and apprentices at various stages of their own development, or, with a similar dynamic in operation, the 'occupants' of the studio are exposed LESS to each other and more to external commentators and contributors and this requires some formality to it .i.e. not simply 'the person off the street' but an educator/moderator in their own right.
Is H818:The Networked Practitioner too dependent on chance?
The foibles of a small cohort and the complex, messy, moments 'we' are in. Three years of this and, by chance only, surely, six of us in a subgroup jelled. More often the silence and inactivity of the majority makes 'group work' a myth - partnerships of two or three were more likely. The only exception I have come across in the 'real world' have been actors working together on an improvisation - they have been trained however to disassociate their natural behaviours.
Some of us study with the OU as we cringe at the 'exposure' of a course that requires us to meet in the flesh - distance learning suits, to some degree, the lone worker who prefers isolation.
By way of revealing contrast I am a mentor at the School of Communication Arts
Modest though pivotal role given their format and philosophy - exposure to many hundreds of kindred spirits who have been there ... a sounding board and catalyst. NOT a contributor, but more an enabler.
We'll see. My thinking is that to be effective, collaboration or exposure needs to have structure and formality in order to work.
At the Brighton Arts Festival the other evening I wonder how the 80 odd exhibitors would cope if the Corn Exchange was also their workshop?
In certain, vulnerable environments, the only comment should be praise. Feedback is invited from those who are trusted.
A school setting is different again, as is college ... people share the same space because they have to.
Open Studio apears to try to coral the feedback that comes anyway from a connected, popular and massive sites such as WordPress, Linkedin Groups, Facebook and even Amazon. Though the exposure, if you permit it, is tempered and negotiated - Facebook is gentle amongst family and friends, Linkedin is meterd and professional in a corporate way, Wordpress is homespun while Amazon, probably due to the smell of money can be catty - and in any case, the artefact is a doneddeal, it's not as if, to take a current example, Max Hastings is going to rewrite his book on the First World War because some in the academic community say that it is weak historicaly and strong on journalistic anecdote.
I'll fix this link to the image when ai can get behind a machine that supports whatever has happened to this blogging platform. The HTML functionality no longer permits cutting and pasting a link to an image stored elsewhere. It is an iPad or the new IOS software or the new OU coding that is causing the problem.
<br /><br /><a href="http://mymindbursts.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/20131002-203503.jpg"><img src="http://mymindbursts.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/20131002-203503.jpg" alt="20131002-203503.jpg" class="alignnone size-full" /></a>
A mashup with a screengrab from Martin Weller's book 'The Digital Scholar'. This uses an App called Studio from which I may have been expected or to which I am supposed to provide a link. As I screengrab then crop from the App so that I can 'publish' the way Iike now what?
The nature of relationships in a connected world do matter while the difference between face to face and online may be tangential. Whilst I feel I make new acquaintences online, of more interest is how I have been able to pick up very old friendships - even reconnecting with a Frenchman with whom I went on an exchange visit in 1978!
I wonder about the 150 connections given as a figure that can be maintained - this depends very much on the person and their role. Even when I collected people for the joy of it as an undergraduate I doubt I could muster more than 70 I felt I knew something about and could care for, whilst my father in law, a well respected, influential and even loved university tutor has, in his eighties several hundred contacts - former students on whom he had an impact as an educator. So, the person and their role will have more to do with this 'connectedness', which comes with a price, My father in law saw/sees himself as an educator who put sugnificantly more time than his contemparies into the students rather than research.
I'd like therefore to see 'digital scholarship' associated with educators not simply for what they publish - collaboratively or otherwise, but by the 'quality' and 'validity' of the students they mentor, suoervise, inspire and motivate - made all the more possible because of the extraordinary tools we now have at our fingertips.
Weller, M (2011) The Digital Scholar. @4% or Kindle Location 199
Fig. 1. This is the cover page of Lawrence Lessig's book 'Remix: making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy' (2008)
I cannot currently show it as the HTLM functionality of this blog platform cannot be used from an iPad any more.
'The value of blogs is not that I'm likely to find a comment that surpasses the very best of the New York Times. I'm not. But that's not the point. Blogs are valuable becuase they give millions the opportunity to express their ideas in writing. And with a practice of writing comes a certain important integrity. A culture filled with bloggers thinks differently about politics or public affairs, if only because more have been forced through the discipline of showing in writing why A leads to B'. Lawrence Lessig (2008:92-93)
There are multiple reasons to blog, and several of these don't require you to post 'to the world'. Posting for yourself as a record is good, and posting to a tight group OF YOUR OWN MAKING works too - i.e. those to whom you feel a natural affinity rather than the forced, coraled group of students in a tutor group.
I'll revisit the mindmap on blogging that I produced a while ago and refresh it.
I, naturally, recommend it. Though keeping your reflections in a notebook might be less distracting and less liable to cause offence of embarrassment.
My thirteen years and more studying with the OU has seen how I learn shift. The current twist is looping back to the less distracted days of being 'off line'. At the same time I have done a couple of things that are very old school:
1) A 'Room of my own' without internet access (my choice) .. down the road with an opt in/ opt out. Also an 'office' (I recently bought the domain name Mindbursts.com.
2) Pen and paper ... and by that I mean a fountain pen with ink cartridges and a pad of lined paper - not quite an exercise book, but close.
1) I am easily distracted. Studying with the Internet 24/7 it is too tempting to be checking email, responding to forum messages or just browsing, I miss linking to books and journals I read about, but these can wait. Maybe the impluse to purchase or read another book weill reduce by the time I get to consider it in the wee hours back at home. My 'room' is ten miles down the road.
2) Partially this is physiological - I am seeing a physio trying to untangle or unknot some hideous pain in my left elbow which I ascribe to typing up blog entries with my left hand while reclined on the sofa or in bed. Partially it is knowing that there is never a short cut to learning and knowing a subject. I truly believe that mixed methods work - that it helps to take the written word and write it out, and type it out, and talk about it and visualise it. Neurologists will confirm that memory formation requires the binding of activity across the brain, rather than from just one part of it.
Meanwhile, I look forward to another e-learning module, H818, with trepidation:
1) I need to demonstrate to myself that I can keep up and even improve on the standard I'm now able to attain. (Time and effort and the only two words to think about).
2) I will be running in tandem with anothe module, taught old-school, at a different university, simultaneously. Already I dread the commute to a monthly day-long tutorial that I can only do by train if I am on a train at 5.20am. It'll make for a very interesting comparison. If the OU offered the module I want to study I would have done it - they don't. This surprises me given the Open Learn work they are doing on the First World War with the Imperial War Museum.
Best wishes to all ... so much for thinking I'd finished with this. Next up I'm applying to the OU to do a PhD so I might be around for a while longer yet.
I started an early e-learning module H808 in 2001 ... skipped off the final paper and came back to it all decade later. I have both books and papers from that period which make for amusing reading.
Fig. 1. The Digital Scholar
Martin Weller's Digital Scholar becomes the basis for H818 - The Networked Practitioner
This new e-learning module from the Open University uses Martin Weller’s book The Digital Scholar is part of a wide range of open access material used for the module and Martin is one of the authors of the module content.
Over the last couple of years I have said how much I would like to 'return' to the traditional approach to graduate and postgraduate learning - you read a book from cover to cover and share your thinking on this with fellow students and your tutor - perhaps also a subject related student society.
Why know it if it works?
Fig. 2. The backbone of H810 Accessible Online Learning is Jane Seale's 2006 Book.
Where the author has a voice and authority, writes well and in a narrative form, it makes for an easier learning journey - having read the Digital Scholar participants will find this is the case.
As in the creation of a TV series or movie a successful publication has been tested and shows that there is an audience.
The research and aggregation has been done - though I wonder if online exploiting a curated resource would be a better model? That e-learning lends itself to drawing upon multiple nuggets rather than a single gold bar.
There are a couple of caveats related to this tactic:
- Keeping the content refreshed and up to date. Too often I find myself reading about redundant technologies - the solution is to Google the cited author and see if they have written something more current - often, not surprisingly from an academic, you find they have elaborated or drilled into a topic they have made their own in the last 18 months.
- Lack of variety. Variety is required in learning not simply to avoid the predictable - read this, comment on this, write an assignment based on this ... but this single voice may not be to everyone's liking. Can you get onto their wave length? If not, who and where are the alternative voices?
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