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O is for The Open University

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 3 Jun 2014, 12:57

My Open University Decade

  • Openness

  • Open Educational Resource (OER)

  • Open Learning

  • The Open University

  • Open Ed

  • Oxford Internet Institute

  • Open Research

The Open University was made for the Internet. First envisaged as 'the university of the airwaves' because of its use of TV and Radio, The OU went on to become one of the world's leading providers of distance education in the world. Not surprisingly, through a number of faculties or institutions (IET, CREET, Open Learn), The OU is at the forefront of innovative e-learning and e-learning research.

In the Master of Arts Open and Distance Education degree 'openness' is one of the key themes; a movement aimed at providing and sharing education resources and thinking openly.

I've included the Oxford Internet Institute for its niche research and teaching on our use of the Web. 

Open Ed – an annual conference looking at Open Education (linked to the Open Ed 2013 conference website as they have a different website every year)

OER – the annual conference in the UK looking at Open Educational Resources and Open Practice (known as OER13, OER14, etc.)

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Four ways to be a 'Digital Scholar'

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 16 Oct 2011, 05:05

If Boyer's four main scholarly functions were research, application, integration and teaching, then I would propose that those of the digital scholar are engagement, experimentation, reflection and sharing'.

Weller (2011 in Chapter 4, 20% of the way through, Kindle Location 1005. Is there a page number related to a print version? Amazon say not in a polite, informative and lengthy e-mail. What therefore is the answer to this referencing conundrum?)

Does Weller's suggestion make anyone who keeps a student blog and shares it openly like this a scholar?

Making us all digital scholars?

(I love the term as a hundred years ago in Census Returns it was used to describe anyone attending an academic institution, whether school or university).

Goals of the Scholarly Activity

  • Provide students with an opportunity to employ their unique skills and talents to pursue a project of their choosing under the mentorship of an expert in the field.
  • Provide mentorship and guidance for students interested in careers that integrate research, teaching, and clinical service (academic medicine).
  • Foster development of analytical thinking skills, rational decision making, and attention to the scientific method.
  • Enhance communication skills.
  • Enhance self-directed learning.

 

Reference

Boyer, E.L. 1990. Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Princeton, NJ.

Weller, M., (2011) The Digital Scholar

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The inaugural lecture of Agnes Kukulska-Hulme (part 2)

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 27 Aug 2011, 10:08
Prof. Agnes Kukulska-Hulme joined the OU's Institute of Educational Technology in 1996
Her research interests were Digital assets and eBooks, mobile devices, hand held devices and smart technologies for personal learning.
It intrigues me that her first interest was languages, and French, which she studied at Warsaw. She then went on to computing, which is another language, indeed I wonder if programming has achieved what Esperanto dreamed of.
These first personal choices on what to study runs with us for our loves does it not.
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The inaugural lecture of Agnes Kukulska-Hulme

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 10 Aug 2011, 10:16

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Making polite conversation before the event I found myself speaking to her son and daughter, one at university the other recently graduated. I asked what it was like to have a parent as an academic.  

I also find myself talking to John Traxler and the Director of the IET.

I'm getting used to the idea that I neither get out an autograph book or talk shop (even if this lecture will feed into my ECA).  

In the introduction we learn that Agnes was born in Poland then 'dropped' into Scotland  

She has even more then in common with my Polish academic father-in-law.

Clearly her early interests in languages and computing have brought her where she is today. For opinion and insight we were spoilt; I'll offer it in due course. Are we not all the product of our earlier interests? Where we put down deeper, longer lasting routes?

I used to be nicknamed 'Video Vernon' which perhaps explains how I spent my university days.

You can or will be able to view it all for yourselves.

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H800 WK21-22 Activity 2d VLE vs. PLE who wins?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 3 Nov 2012, 20:59

H800 WK21-22 Activity 2d VLE vs. PLE who wins?

  • John Petit
  • Martin Weller
  • Niall Sclater

Stephen Downes – Students own education

· How much do they actually differ in their views?

· What is my perspective?

· Freedom is lack of choice

· Parameters work

· Creativity is mistakes

· Have rules, the mischievous or skilled will break them anyway

· The end result counts.

a) This isn’t a debate. Neither takes sides and the chair interjects his own thoughts. A debate, whether at school, university or in a club, or in a court of law or the House of Commons, is purposely adversarial, people take sides, even take a stance on a point of view they may not wholly support, in order to winkle out answers that may stand somewhere between the two combatants.

b) During the MAODE this might be the second such offering as a ‘debate,’ the last being as weak. What is more I have attended a Faculty debate which shilly-shallied around the issues with at times from an audience’s point of view it being hard to know whose side the speakers were on?

c) As well as deploring the lack of rigour regarding what should or should not be defined as a debate, the vacuous nature of the conversations means that you don’t gain one single new piece of evidence either way. Generalities are not arguments, neither side attempts to offer a knock-out blow, indeed Martin Weller seems keen to speak for both sides of the argument throughout.

When Martin Weller implies that a VLE constrains because ‘There are so many fantastic tools out there that are free and robust and easy to use.’ I would like a) example b) research based evidence regarding such tools, which do offer some compelling arguments, these commercial and branded products have to offer something refreshing and valuable.

Unlike some university offering they are therefore not only effective, but vitally, they are fun, tactile, smartly constructed, well-funded, give cache to the user, are easy to share, champion and become evangelical about, explored, exploited and developed further. Here I compare Compendium with the delight of bubbl.us.

Here I compare blogging in the confines of the abandoned cold-frame that is the Victorian OU student blogging platform compared to the Las Vegas experience of WordPress.

I can even compare how WordPress performs externally compared to the shackled version provided by the OU. On the one hand there is a desire to treat students like sheep; there is even a suggestion in this chatty-thing between Niall Sclater and Martin Weller than OU undergraduates ought to offer the most basic environment in which to operate. Access is an important point, but you don’t develop players in an orchestra by shutting everyone in a hall and giving them a kazoo. And if that Kazoo requires instructions then it deserves being ignored. Having lived with it for a year the OU e-portfolio My Stuff might best be described as some kind of organ-grinder with the functionality and fun-factor of Microsoft DOS circa 1991.

Martin Weller makes the point about tools that might be used this before, during and after their university experience. There is a set of ICT tools covering word-processing, databases, number manipulation, calendars and communications that are a vital suite of skills; skills that some might already have, or partially have … or not have at all. The problem is in the accommodation of this widely differing skill set.

JV Exposure to new, or similar, experience of better as well as weaker programmes/tools, fashion, peer group, nature of the subject they are studying, their ambitions, who they are, how much time they have, their kit, connection and inclinations, let alone the context of where they are going online.

In this respect Martin Weller is right to say that ‘some kind of default learning environment’ is required first of all.

Caveat: You are going to need people to use the same kind of things in order to be able to communicate.

· University blog vs. their own bog.

· University e-portfolio vs. their own portfolio.

· Elluminate vs. Skype.

· Mac vs. PC,

· Tablet vs. laptop.

· Desktop vs. smartphone.

· Paper vs. e-Reader.

· University Forum vs. Linked in or others.

· Twitter vs. Yammer.

Swimming analogy: training pool, leisure pool, main pool, diving pool, Jacuzzi.

Niall Sclater makes a point about a student using an external blog that doesn’t have a screen reader. Do browsers not offer this as a default now? Whilst I doubt the quality of translation I’ve been having fun putting everything I normally look at into French or loading content onto an e-reader and having it read to me on long car journeys. The beauty of Web 2.0 and Open Learn is that developers love to solve problems then share their work. Open Learn allows these fixers to crack on at a pace that no institution can match.

Perhaps issues regarding passwords is one such problem which is no longer a problem with management systems. Saving passwords etc.: Other problems we have all see rise and fall might include spam. The next problem will be to filter out spam in the form of ‘Twitter Twaddle’ the overwhelming flack of pre-written RSS grabbed institutional and corporate messages that should without exception be ‘flagged’ by readers as spam until it stops. I never had a conversation with a piece of direct mail shoved at me through my letter box, or spam come to that matter. Here largely the walled, university environment in which to study, is protected from the swelling noise of distraction on the outside,

Niall Sclater talks about the Wiki on OU VLE, in Moodle ‘comprises what we consider is the most useful functionality for students. The OU ‘cut out a lot of the bells and whistles you find in MediaWiki’. New to wikis I enjoyed being eased into their use, but like a keen skier, or swimmer, having found my ‘legs’ I wanted incremental progressions. Being compelled to stay in the training pool, or on the nursery slopes, to return to by Kazoo metaphor, is like having Grade 5 flute, but having to play with six novice recorder players in Kindergarten. We move on and therefore what is offered should move with us.

Universities fail abysmally to sell their products to their captive audiences.

Commercial products are sold, invitingly to everyone who comes within earshot. There is a commercial naivety and intellectual arrogance sometimes over stuff created that must be great, because it is the invention of brilliant minds … and that its brilliance will be self-evident even if it sits their within its highly branded overcoat waiting for some time to take an interest and take it out for a test drive. Creators of these tools forget that a quick search using some of the terms related to the affordances of the product being offered will invariably produce something more appealing from the likes of Google, Adobe, Apple or Microsoft.

Nail Sclater points out that some students can be confused by too much functionality. I agree. If there is a product that has far too much functionality, it is Elluminate. And even for a library search, it ought to be as simple as the real thing … you go to a counter and ask for a title. Google gets it right. Keep it simple. Others are at last following suit. Or is the Google God now omnipresent?

Martin Weller stumbles when he says that Nail ‘hits on two arguments against decentralised PLEs by

a) Giving three arguments

a. Authentication

b. Integration

c. Robustness

b) He is meant to be in favour of PLEs.

i.e. academics are incapable of debate because they are, to use of Martin Weller’s favourite terms ‘contextualised’ to sit on the fence. A debate should be a contest, a bullfight ideally with a clear winner, the other party a convincing looser.

You wouldn’t let a soldier chose his weapons then enter the fray. There has to be a modicum of formal training across a variety of tools, and in a controlled, stepped fashion in order to bring people along, communally, for retention and to engender collaboration and participation and all that benefits that come from that.

Who at a time of change is going to declare their role, or department redundant? Brought into a new role, Social Media Manager, I feel I will have succeed in 12 months if I have handed over the keys to others, spread some of the glory about. That’s how I see it, a little bit of everybody’s lives. You can wordprocess, you can do some aspect of Social Media. There are other functions though that long ago were circumvented by clever software. Web 2.0 deplores the gatekeeper. It wants to put everything ‘out there,’ enabling everyone and anyone to make of it what they need and please.

Personally I’ve been loading content, text and images, in diaryland since Sept 1999 and have never had an issue with access, yet I have repeatedly found my OU e-portfolio failed, or that while composing a response in a forum the system fell-down and I lost what I was doing.

Nial Sclater argues in favour of VLEs to ensure usability, access, extension to students, common ground on terms of tools, opportunity and form an assessment point of view, use of content too.

While Martin Weller wants to ‘Support’ – an argument for VLEs. (I’ve now made the point several times that Martin Weller seemed unsure of which side he was on, and by personality and from experience, will never take a side in any case).

We DO want people going away being able to use package X. Do we turn out Roy Castle types who can play loads of instruments not very well, or a virtuoso performer who can at least play the cello well?

JP stepping in ‘as my confidence grew I got to know that and my confidence grew across the year as I got to know that and one or two other very limited and well-supported tools’

Nial Sclater’s point that the same tool is required for collaboration and assessment. This applies also to reading the materials provided and doing the activities so that these are the points of reference for assessments (as currently practised). How can a Tutor mark an assessment that is based on vegetables from a walled Victorian kitchen garden, when the student offers flowers grown from seed in a tub? To return to my sporting analogy, how might I judge a person’s ability to swim after 12 weeks if they’ve been learning how to sail?

Parameters have a purpose.

The greatest resistance to a writer is having no sense of purpose, no goals, no parameters, no set pieces, no one to be on their case. A free for all, perhaps as the new London Business and Finance School is finding, is that just giving students the lot and telling them to get on with it is not conducive to a viable learning experience. (Nor do I think it’ll deliver someone is able to work with others).

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Social Media Analytics from the I.E.T.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 18 Nov 2013, 11:40

Settling down to some H800 reading at the end of an extraowrdinary week.

Monday 'attended, livestream conference from the Institue of Educational Technology.

Tweated through-out and got one question in either to Martin Weller or Andrew Laws.

Screen grabs and bllog notes all the way through.

Yet to digest but gripped by Weller's growing view that page views, links and friends for a stream of online writing may be gathered in time as evidence of scholarqship.

Also informed by Tony Hirst and the meaning behind Goodhart's Law in relation to analytics that cease to be a measure as we become skilled at warping/twisting the means by which the stats are generated.

Informed too by the notion of Open Learn content, understandably, as having a commercial as well as a public remit, to inform, but also translate into people signing up for courses.

If there was a Coast course I'd do it. All I've ever had is a fancy booklet.

That was Monday.

This is turnng into one of those weblog things. Now why am I not into all that reverse chronology posting thing? Its having something to say and the desire to say it.

Four entries one day, none for a while.

That's fine too.

P.S. Now that all this stuff is public facing and broadcast should there not be a dress code.

I find myself watching an event taking place in 2011 and being reminded of an OU Physics Lecture of the 1970s. (I often watched this stuff as a boy in the middle of the night. Hippy, beard, denim jacket, flaired-trousers and sandals.)

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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

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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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When your iPad turns flat it should turn into paper.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 22 Jun 2011, 01:01
The battery was flat. Need I say more? Attending a debate hosted by The IET and attended by many of our favourite academics I could have tweeted and voted along with some of them, instead like Gill Kirkup I took notes on a pad of A4. Simply because the battery had gone on the iPad. I did at least record the entire 'debate' on a digital recorder. What chance e-learning if the electricity runs out? Out of 13 there were 3 on iPads, including Martin Weller stabbing at his keyboard as if he had socks on his hands. There were two lap tops and a smartphone. Of the remaining, three took no notes at all. Does it matter how people voted? Not with this sample.
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H800 80 Wk 12 Use of Technology

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 29 Aug 2011, 10:38

I've decided to look at mobile learning ... or simply learning on handheld and portable devices. The same thing, or different.

I've been informed by the OU's 'Learning at Work Day' on the 19th May and a presentation by Rhodri Thomas at a stand that showcases the research and work being done in relation to mobile learning.

More from Mobisite

The shift towards mobile learning, using these devices to complement course work, or to carry out or engage in learning styles made uniquely possibly by highly portable, networked devices, is evidence by the figures and perhaps inevitable now that mobile phones at almost universal (93% UK penetration by 2008, presumably more in 2011).

More in Cloudworks

2% of OU students (4,000 or so) use tablets (not just iPads). 11% use SmartPhones (not just iPhones).

All coursework development/availability is 'device agnostic'

I'm impressed how it is driven by student use - this drives the response from the OU, rather than clever folk buried in the OU thinking 'this'll work, developing something, adding bells and whistles andexpeting students to leap to attention when it is presented.

The OU has been tracking use of mobile devices for learning by 35,000 students.

Are they calling it cellular learning in North America?

Kind of misses the point about mobility. This is the key, not a device to take slightly reversioned module content, but to permit content, communication and development exploiting the affordances of a handheld or pocket-sized device that you might have with you up a cliff face, on an oil-rig, or in a crowd of protesters - were the learning, and writing and researching can all take place in situ.

The key points (largely from an IET Agnes Kukulska-Hulme Report Kukulska-Hulme, 2010:10)

Mobile learning is:

  • Very flexible
  • Appropriate/supportive
  • New
  • Convenient
  • Contemporary
  • Practical
  • Beneficial
  • Has its own unique affordances/advantages
  • Personal/personalised
  • Spontaneous
  • Immediate
  • Extends access to materials not replacement technology)
  • Locational
  • Universal (ish)
  • Leap-frog technology in Africa
  • Engaging
  • Expected

I liken it to having a tour guide with you, rather than the book. So learning in the field, human or physical geography, history of art, archaeology and history, for example, can all be brought to life with this 'expert in your poket' to refer to.

A distance learner's mobile device (at the Open University) can be used as a way to:

  • carry around study materials
  • aces new or additional content
  • build up a series of personal notes
  • help make or maintain communications between different contexts

Supported by VLE 2.0 and Moodle 2.0

  • organised personal learning schedules
  • give feedback, opinions or answers
  • get quick information or support
  • communicate with other learners or tutors

Coming from advertising where 'testing to destruciton' is a favourite way to promote some products, I wonder if a new module can be 'tested to destruction' by making it mobile? The stresses or rather the robust nature of the course, and the support provided, my be tested to extreme, for example by someone studying for an OU MBA on an oilrig, or a BA in History while cycling through Europe?

Designing for mobile learning

Designing for mobile learning should follow established principles of good pedagogical design, or 'learning design', in terms of first specifying objectives, outcomes, resources and interactions; then engaging in piloting or developmental testing where possible; followed finally by evaluation and fine-tuning. (Kukulska-Hulme, 2010:10)

Mobile devices are often used in the midst of, and in support of, some kind of 'action'.

How will you evaluate it?

A synthesis of usability issues across a range of mobile learning projects (Kukulska-Hulme, 2007) found that issues reported in the research literature, in relation to what is required in the activity of learning, could be summarised under four main headings:

  • the physical attributes of mobile devices
  • content and software applications
  • network speed and reliability
  • the physical environments of use

The key issues relate to six aspects of mobile learning: (2008:11)

  • The learners
  • Other people
  • Tasks engage in
  • Device being used
  • Connectivity/networks used
  • Locations of use

In addition, there is a cluster of questions to be asked about the longer term requirements and outcomes of mobile learning

CONCLUSION

In general, materials designed for print or online delivery are not likely to be ideal for viewing or interacting with on mobile devices.

A key desire for students is to be alerted when assessment results come through.

They can track their progress also using reversioned VLE content directly on their device of choice.

CASE STUDY

Biodiversity Observatory Project

Enabling Remote Activity

REFERENCE

LEARNING AND TEACHING GUIDES FROM IET. MOBILE LEARNING. Agnes Kukulska-Hulme, with case studies by Anna Page.

Date ? I've calling it 2010 for now.

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