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H800 Forum Strengths & Weaknesses

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 5 Oct 2012, 23:34
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Advice on protecting an email address

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 6 Sep 2011, 03:58
Spam is a thing of the past, however, as my password jfvernon@aol.com has been compromised, everyone on my database, including people I should have bothered to delete a long time ago, received dodgy emails for pharmaceutical products. I have changed the password; is that enough?
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H800 Metaphors and Meaning Making

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 8 Nov 2011, 22:45

The right metaphor is used in context.

 

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From Learning Technologies 2011

By understanding your audience you come to understand what metaphors will have resonance.

By working in the communications industry, by reading a good deal, looking at even more, you develop a sense of what is cliche.

Whilst cliches work, indeed repetition of expressions that work make sense, in many contexts the cliche fails to make an impression, for example, thinking of a multinational like players in an orchestra.

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I like, from a design point of view, the idea of 'Swim Lanes' because as a swim coach I understand the relationship between the coach/coaching team and the athlete.

The sense of personal development makes sense, as do the motivations and effort. The trick for me is to translate this into programmes of study.

This image has more power to my mind than a pool with water in it, the lane ropes out and Bill Furniss blowing a whistle at Rebeccar Adlington.

We will get bored of the sports cliche these next 12 months.

  • If learning design is like swim lanes, then what has happened here?
  • No one signed up for the course and the organisation went bust?
  • Lack of support?
  • Course materials out of date?
  • Systems failure with the VLE that leaves the experience somewhat less like swimming up and down a pool?

 

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All we are doing here is trying to get others inside our head, or better still, to create something extra corporeal, like the 'Object 3' in Engestrom's learning systems.

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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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Why the world wide web 2.0 changes learning forever.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 4 Nov 2011, 19:55

A pedagogy of abundance explains a good deal and changes everything

 

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From Dion Hinchcliffe

A pedagogy of abundance

This forms a chapter in Martin Well's new book.

If you are studying the Masters in Open and Distance Education MAODE (any module) with The OU you need to read this.

Weller takes us through a series of clearly expressed, persuasive steps, a brief history about the more recent shifts in education and how Web 2.0 changes everything.

I conclude that the nature of learning is reverting to its natural, un-institutionalised and a pre-formal classroom based model, whereby you learn on the fly vicariously, turning to groups and individuals of your own choosing, exploiting the abundance of the web to inform and connect, an apprentice of anything, perhaps even at times with a tutor or fellow students, in an experience that is more akin to that of a governess to child, or tutor to older student or expert and scholar.

Boyer (1990) established what scholars do

1) Discovery

2) Integration

3) Application

4) Teaching

It intrigues me that this set of activities or practices is precisely what one does in social media:

1) Seeking out through research those 'spheres of influence' where the discussions are generating something fresh and pertinent, that is informed, even scholarly and that you proactively integrate this 'sphere of influence' which might be an individual (blog, podcast, video) or a social media platform group, into your own online 'realm of thinking' through bookmarks, joining a group (and engaging in its vortex).

2) Engaging tentatively in some forums.

3) From observation on the periphery (Seely-Brown) to growing levels of participation you gain the confidence to apply what you understand to the degree that you too in turn not only express your thoughts in blogs, forums and discussion groups, but

4) find yourself teaching others, itself a learning experience. Weller implies that to understand what could happen in education we ought to consider the shift in the way in which we purchase digital artifacts compared to the physical object, that just as the abundance of music, movies and books in digital form has altered our behaviours regarding shops and shopping, so the ready availability of digitised learning materials is inevitably altering the way students view and purchase education.

We are moving from a model based on the economics of scarcity to an economics of abundance.

Here, though Weller doesn't offer it, a brief consideration of how centres of learning formed in the distant past is of value. How students gathered around a scholar, then as the technology made possible, books containing information and scholarly thought were gathered into collections.

The student and educators had to be physically present and thus our university towns were formed.

The formation of and subsequent success of establishments such as the Open University (begun 42 years ago) shows that separation of student and campus was possible where the technology and logistics meant that through books, TV, radio, tapes, and subsequently DVDs and the Internet the learning experience could be divorced from the campus. This dependence on the physical artifact is now dissolving too, the expense is no longer represented in the book, indeed the idea of a collection of many chapters in one place is challenged as the Internet allows far greater tailoring of content to the learning object.

Is this not a return to a more natural way of doing things?

Should we be turning for input here from to the social anthropologist and educational psychologist here?

Have we ever learnt in units of engagement that endure through the entire contents of a book in one sitting?

I wonder if the cook book as a model for e-learning is an apt one?

Chris Anderson (2008)

The future modus operandi might be to give away '90% of a product to earn 1 %'. The logic of accepting the way in which digital stuff is created, marketed and sold implies that the 'long tail of higher education' (let's keep kids at school for now), will give much more control to the student purchasing their education; that niche and tailored learning will be desired.

Of far greater worry, unless you and your institution are readily able to embrace change as an early adopter, is that modules themselves, like a set of wikipaedia pages offered in a myriad of personalised sequences, can be assembled like a set of smart Lego bricks by the learner themselves making substantial parts of an institution's functions redundant. Indeed, being able to slot in up-to-date content, easily achieved beyond the confines of a module, is indicative of a weakening in the relationship between institution and student.

There is less dependence on specific course materials when most references can be sourced with ease.

Even the social aspect of the campus based education is challenged

Think of it as a form of tourism, education as an opportunity to socialise, be entertained and to entertain, then this can be done online. (Don't we all go to university as undergraduates for the 'crack'?)

The gap between the physical and the virtual experience has closed

Can learning be purchased, consumed and certified like an eBook from Amazon?

Should the Milton Keynes Campus of the Open University be taking greater head of the vast distribution warehouses of Amazon on the other side of the M1?

Do you need the expert if their insights can be purchased through various forms of asynchronous communication? (a book) Or their synchronous insights and expertise supported by the hour through a webinar or Skype-enabled tutorial? If the sphere of influence is reduced to that of professor and scholar, as that between a piano teacher and pianist do we need the institution at all?

And in a world where all qualifications are not the same even if they have the same name, is the only outcome that matters for the individual, their job and how they consequently perform (or if it is an MBA how their business performs)?

If the same learning outcomes are offered, using largely the same set of materials in a sequence that is logical and engaging and will in any case be far more challenged or enabled by the context in which the student is learning, then surely the deciding factor is price and the only way to decide on which price to pay has to be a combination of the depths of your pockets and the perceived and actual desirability of the brand.

If Harvard Business School, for example, as the Mercedes of business schools, can now offer, like the car manufacturer, a range of products to suit different pockets, all with the same brand values and distributed with ease over the Internet, then how do others compete?

Or what if its star product, once limited by the physical limitations of a campus and the manageability of a cohort can be purchased by thousands?

Perhaps in a growing market, with significant demand, space remains for many players and new players. However, as any Internet search shows, if you are learning online the deciding point, exactly as a purchase of a packet of Cornflakes, comes as you reach up to the shelf and select product B rather than product A.

Might it be, that having been the only product for several decades, the Open University's 'product A' is competing with a rich alphabet of alternatives, many written and supported without doubt if you look at the lists of academics and personal by people who were originally taught by or taught at The OU.

If the model is to give away the digital object and make money on the physical then Oxbridge, Ivy League and other campus based institutions could potentially increase their intake 12 fold by running all courses online, with physical presence limited to three one week long residential sessions.

The College turns into a B&B with the residents changing every week, rather like the turn around days you have at a resort.

At no stage is contact with fellow students, tutors or the college itself ever diminished, as everyone is readily contactable thanks to a smartphone and a laptop. Likewise distance learning Institutions such as The OU to compete with these upstarts should offer a campus based experience by creating permanent bases strategically all over the world.

  • Freemium
  • The Long Tail

If we think of education as music, then we have two forms, the folk form inexpensively delivered in homes and community spaces and the elite form of the expert or most popular performer in access-restricted palaces and assembly halls. Whilst historically we have seen the music industry of the last century as the democratisation music, in hindsight, with the Internet, even this looks like a restrictive practice, holding purchasers back by the schedule of production, distribution and sales. Books are going the same way as CDs; as both are formats for learning materials, is it not simply the case that with lectures, tutorials and assessment online, that there is an expectation from all quarters that we can have it all, anywhere, any time? And that this can be achieved by any institution. It isn't difficult to digitise content, you simply don't go to print. Brand, like purchasing Cornflakes, the price and what you can afford is the only differentiator.

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An activist model.

While access to expertise remains rare, we have access to journals, videos, blogs, podcasts, slidecasts, also discussion forums, comments, and blogs. Weller (2011)

And these experts, certainly in distance learning institutions, are often bound only, like the students, by lengthy threads to remote locations. Their reputation, the weight of their knowledge a product of those parts of their thinking that has been published for public consumption. It then comes down to the quality of learning experience through tutors, online and other support. We should think of each online module as a virtual game, with all those ins and outs and possibilities thoroughly tested for the experience; exactly, in fact, as occurs in the Institute of Educational Technology at The OU.

Siemens (2005) considers the shift to greater control by the learner rather than the institution.

Constructivism, social constructivism and now connectivism are the learning paradigms. If education at close quarters in the Oxbrdige tutorial, involves dialogue, reflection and critical analysis, these are the same qualities that can be achieved online at less cost and at greater convenience.

The essence of learning

Conole (2008) Web 2.0 the collective and the network.

As in the physical world with its cliques and networks, from old school-tie to Free Masons, so online, despite our desire to exploit the ability to connect, there are controls and limits. You cannot wade in and exchange with much authority, the hero expert author of the books or papers yiu have come to admire. Seely-Brown and others are right to consider how all of us, unwittingly or deliberately, first engage as an apprentice of some sort. We must begin on the periphery. If dropped into the heart of things too soon our ignorance will mean we have no purchase at the centre and centrifugal forces will cast us aside.

As one commentator is right to point out, the Internet is the real world. A movie, or novel is fiction, but online with increasing ease, we behave in just the same way with someone a thousand miles away as someone sitting opposite us.

Web 2.0 = niche communities, social purposes, collective political action, amateur journalism, social commentary.

Just as we can have the successful, recognised and respected amateur journalist and amateur sports coach, so surely can we have the amateur academic, if only in the sense that none of these people are paid. We can all surely think of professional journalists, coaches and academics who are amateurish in their words, actions and thoughts. Just as there are successful 'citizen journalists' even the 'amateur novelist' who self-publish are there not likely to be 'amateur scholars' even tutors, anyone with that vocational desire to share their thinking in order to develop the knowledge of others?

Have we not reached a stage with the plethora of quality content online and the multitude of groups that you could join, that you could learn a great deal to a high academic standard or level of performance, entirely for free both in cost terms and the constructs of an educational institution. You may not have the piece of paper at the end of it or the letters after your name, or indeed the title before your name, but when did any qualification qualify you to do something with it?

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Seely-Brown and Adler (2008) talk of this shift to participation and demand-pull.

They talk of education being:

  • Free
  • Abundant
  • Varied
  • Easy
  • Socially based Connections light

Shirky (2008) Organisations

User generated content

In a world of abundance the emphasis is less on the creation of new learning materials than on the selection, aggregation and interpretation of existing materials. We don't need more, we need systems that let us draw in the freshest and most significant content on the fly. Dare I also suggest that just as music is easily copied and shared for free, that course content, and the learning design can just as easily be lifted and reconstituted? Weller 2011 i.e. New learning content becomes the remit of students who through the abundance of stuff and connectivity generate new content. The trick is to isolate those places where people of a like-minds gather. You cannot join more than a handful of groups and take part and so contribute or gain anything. The tasks therefore becomes to find or form such groups.

Barrows and Tamblyn (1980) problem based learning. Is identified as the old way of learning.

That you present a problem then teach a way to solve it.

Wenger (1998) the social role of learning and apprenticeship as 'legitimate peripheral learning'

Bacon and Dillon (2006) Communities of practice.

Siemens and connectivism.

The real issue is user-based content. Eric Schmidt, CEO Google. More content is generated and put online in any two days in 2011 than was created, published or broadcast between the development of the first means of mass distribution, the printing press and the coming of the Internet. We do in our millions, with extraordinary ease, in 48 hours what had taken some 600 years to do.

REFERENCE

Weller, M. (2011) in Spanish Journal of Pedagogy, 249 pp223-236

 

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H800 WK17 Computer Lab to iPad for e-learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 17 Oct 2012, 04:30

Simply to offer a different insight while acknowledging the above, I was, in 1983, introduced to the wonders of the University Computer Lab.

'Back then' this wasn't an elective, but rather signing up to some additional, extra-curricular training.

It did not appeal one bit; I could imagine to some degree where it was going and its necessity in one of my options (remote sensing from space), but to achieve anything (I am neither computer literate or mechanically minded), it struck me, as was the case, that your required a certain mindset (that of an engineer or mathematician). Because it was in little demand, not networked, bespoke to a project and housed in one place it was akin to joining the stamp club and about as exciting. It was however 'on request,' rather than compulsory and could with ease be ignored.

I wonder if a more laissez-faire approach would work?

More of an internal market in an organisation where choices are offered to individuals so that the decission making could be more bottom up than top down? i.e. you have a budget, you pick the kit you'd like, the software you need rather than being prescribed a piece of kit and software and obliged to learn it.

I imagine the moment I can afford to buy a Mac I'll do so.

The simplest analogy would be is that I feel I've been told I have to use a Rotring pen and a ruler, but I'd prefer to use a soft HB6 pencil and a pad of cartridge paper. The end result, the task or peice of communication I have to deliver will be the same, I just get there 'my way,' rather than 'your way'.

My university experience from the 1980s, to that as student and now insider thirty years on at the OU is different, however, invited to meet a group of Associate Lecturers yesterday to have my mind picked regarding web-conferencing, Elluminate and synchronous learning in general, I was struct not by how things have changed, but how what matters hasn't changed at all - there are educators who are fascinate by and passionate about what they do.

There is a desire to do the best by their students and to get their heads around what tools could be used to improve or enhance this experience. Even speaking with my 85 year old father-in-law, a former prof who still 'teaches' I am struck by this vocational zeal, which is shared whether by email and Skype, by snailmail or a tutorial, collaboration on a book, or giving a talk (still) at a summer school.

The lesson I have learnt therefore is never to let the technology get in the way of this experience, that between educator and student, the knowledgeable and the less knowledgeable, playing on this inhate human desire to share our experience and knowledge whatever that might be.

Increasingly, when discussing the merits of kit or software, I return to this theme, that people have not changed and that the natural relationships that form between people in markets, in villages, in communities, is what we crave and repeatedly recreate online in a multitude of ways.

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H800 WK17

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I interviewed our Dean, Prof. James Fleck a couple of weeks ago (soon to appear on the Association of MBAs website as it was featured at their 2011 Conference).

Here he tells a story of what he calls 'distance' learning (used negatively); it is exactly what we saw in this Kansas University video; they were 'distant' said Prof. Fleck, because he couldn't make out the colour of the person's top in the back row. He compared this to what he said the Faculty of Business and Law achieves through 'nearness' or 'closeness' learning, using platforms such as this, web-conferences too, to support learning. The 'd' word has been banned because of its negative connotations, which include the idea that students have little contact with tutors or fellow students, which in most cases is never the situation as there are regular tutor meetings and other get-togethers. I had to be put right on this score (there are 330 regional centres globally).

In its blended form using a laptop or ipad during a lecture, to Twitter on topic to colleagues, or to see fullscreen or closeups of what the lecturer is delivering live, may enhance the experience, even bring people closer? JISC 2011 this year was attended by nearly 400 on Twitter watching and listening online with under 150 in the lecture hall.

The technology should enable, enhance and support, never to the exclusion of people how don't have the kit or reliable access. Talking of which, I interviewed an Visiting International Fellow from Ghana for the Faculty and couldn't help but ask a question relating to our MAODE; he gave permission to use this so I ought to offer it somewhere. This was on technolgy and the way mobile phones have 70% penetration in Ghana and are therefore crucial to overcome a list of other problems offering a real way forward to be able to exploit learning content, in this case Open Resources for training Civil Servants to MBA level.

And what I take from this?

The best lessons I ever had were from my grandfather; sitting with him learning about his experiences as a machine-gunner and then a fighter pilot in the RFC then taking him to the Imperial War Museum where they welcomed him like Royalty and even had a machine gun out for him! In a moment this 95 year old was crouched behind the thing ... anyway, the point it, one-to-one and face-to-face, an expert passing on knowledge to someone who is motivated is the ideal; how technology can facilitate a component of this is what appeals to me, playing on what we do best as humans in the anthropological sense.

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Applied Learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 11:18

Odd how I can treat a TMA like an essay, research it to death and build towards an essay crisis. Having to write the TMA equivalent, a strategy paper on Social Media, I find I am a couple of days ahead with the first draft written, expectations of a meeting where expert colleagues will have input before finalising and presenting in a week.

Applied learning, or practice-based learning ... action learning, they're all the same idea that attracts a good deal of interest; it increasingly makes sense for people, especially if they are settled in a position that they enjoy and need, to study as the work, the learning occuring alongside what they do, rather than separetely from it.

In some respects this is the immersive learning that game-like learning environments are supposed to re-created; but why do that when you can have the real thing?

I had thought of creating it as a wiki, password protected for contributing stakeholders. As long as we're on the same wavelength from experience of doing this in the MAODE I'd trust the end result to be better as a result, the equivalent of lifting something from the 70% mark towards 85% and beyond.

Blogging here My Mind Bursts more than here, where the audiences have far more choice and haven't the focus of hear of learning with the OU.

Its been an interesting environment to hone some more advanced blogging habits and skills, not simply the generation of regular content, but how it is linked, where it is linked and the important of tags which I've used simply to identify content, but of course of seach engine optimisation purposes too.

If you have a moment and can put the right hat on, perhaps you're an Open University Faculty of Business and Law student anyway, then do please visit our website as I will be listening to all comers on valuable enhancements we can make here.

To 'blogify' is my mission.

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H800 80 Use of mobile devices in e-learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 28 Jan 2012, 15:44

Where do we strand with the use of mobile devices in learning?

The Kukulska-Hulme et al 2011 report 'Mature Students using mobile devices in life and learning' may be a recent publication (International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning Jan-march 2001) but draws its conclusions on research undertaken in between May 2008 and April 2009.

Technologically, in relation to the potential for e-learning, has move on a great deal. In industry would we not expect a report, say from Nielsen or Monitor, to have been done in the last six months?

As Kukulskha-Hulme and her colleagues point out by 2009 PDAs were virtually extinct and we were about to experience the launch of the iPad. Since 2009 smart phones have graduated - they're bright in many ways.

Like their users?

Bright people with the means quickly find ways to put these tools to work, extending their reach to their online course, for materials, forums and assessment alerts, to organise their study time around their diary.

'In today’s global marketplace, educators must know the technology habits and expectations of their students, including those from other countries.' (Kukulska-Hulme et al, 2001:18)

A growing body of students expect a component of their course to be managed using mobile devices.

I like this point from JISC. It supports the constructive view of learning

"Learners can be active makers and shapers of their own learning. They should be supported in using technologies of their own choice where appropriate". (JISC, 2009, p.51)

It is interesting that the report notes that ‘mobile will not necessarily be readily adapted for learning’ (a 2008/2009 perspective) with reasons given as: ‘Ergonomic, pedagogical, psychological and environmental facts and the issue of cost’. (Stockwell, 2008)

Much more is possible today, and expected.

They do suggest that, ‘more widespread adoption by students and teachers is likely to follow’. (ibid 2011:19)

The report notes ‘notable minorities’

A notable major minority who ‘use the internet to download or upload materials.’ (major minority)

And a lesser minority, minority who ‘contribute to blogs and wiki and engage with virtual worlds.’ (ibid p.21) (minor minority)

‘Their age seems less important than their position as early adopters and instigators of change through their influence among their peers and through their networks'. (2011:19)

Which debunks Prensky and favour diffusion of innovations as a mode of study.

'We were interested in gathering data that might challenge the still widespread opinion amongst educators that mobile devices are of little use for academic study. Activities such as web browsing, reading e-news, article reading, book reading, and note taking are valued in the academic world but often considered implausible on handheld devices.' (2011:20)

Which has indeed happened with smarter phones and the proliferation of the tablet (or slate) or iPad … whatever the term might be that we settle on.

‘Since the survey was developed, other devices including notebook computers and e-book readers have become popular, making it even more difficult to draw boundaries between 'handheld learning', laptop learning' and 'desktop learning'. (2011:21)

As if such a distinction was ever necessary? They are all computers, just different sizes, affordances and capabilities.

I liken this loss of boundaries, or the blurring, to drops of ink in a tank of water that gradually swirl about each other and merge.

MOBILE DEVICES ARE USED IN LEARNING FOR:

- Contact with others

- Access to information and answers

- Reading e-Books

- Listening to Podcasts

- Scheduling

Producers and consumers become 'produsers'

One survey shows that mobile devices are enabling users to create resources for teaching purposes, write blogs to keep their friends up to date with events, take and distribute photos and videos, and make and take notes and recordings'. (2011.31)

What is interesting is that there appear to be many ways in which users are employing technologies to generate products.

Bruns (2005) coined the term 'produsers' to denote both of these approaches.

‘Our findings indicate that institutions planning to offer mobile apps should build on the existing preferences of students for social communication. Listening to audio, watching video and reading short texts if the apps are successfully to enhance the learning experience’. (Kukulska-HUlme 2011:32)

When students are offered appropriate mobile resources then they will use them. (2011:32)

‘Since the use of a mobile device represents a new technological means of reading books, articles and news, this might have an impact on how, and how much, students read, however further research would be needed’. (2011:33)

More research is always needed ... in deed, with a longitidunal study this research would and should undertake to look at a cohort or students EVERY year.

REFERENCE

Bruns, A. (2005) 'Anyone can edit': understanding the produser. Retrieved from http;//snurb.info/index. php?q=node/s86

Kukulska-Hulme, Agnes, John Pettit, Linda Bradley, Ana A. Carvalho, Anthony Herrington, David M. Kennedy, and Aisha Walker. "Mature Students Using Mobile Devices in Life and Learning." IJMBL 3.1 (2011): 18-52. Accessed (May 22, 2011)

Rogers, E.M. (2005) Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.) New York, NY: Free Press

Jones, C.R., Ramanau, R., Cross, S., & Healing, G. (2010) Net generation or Digital Natives: Is there a distinct new generation entering university? Computers & Education, 54(3), 722-732. doi. 10.1016/j.compendu.2009.09.022

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H800 80 Use of mobile devices in e-learning TMA02

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 1 Jul 2012, 18:07

There must be industry reports that can give a more current 'state of play' for use of mobile devices (smart phones and tablets in particular) ... though not necessarily confined to use in education.

The Kukulska-Hulme et al 2011 report 'Mature Students using mobile devices in life and learning' may be a recent publication (International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning Jan-march 2001) but draws its conclusions on research undertaken in between May 2008 and April 2009.

Technologically and in relation to the potential for e-learning a great deal has happened since then.

In industry would we not expect a report, say from Nielsen or Monitor, to have been done in the last six months?

In the technology sector old news is redundant.

By 2009 PDAs were virtually extinct and we were about to experience the launch of the iPad. Since 2009 smart phones have graduated - they're bright in many ways.

Like their users?

Bright people with the means quickly find ways to put these tools to work, extending their reach to their online course, for materials, forums and assessment alerts, to organise their study time around their diary.

FROM THE ABSTRACT

'In today’s global marketplace, educators must know the technology habits and expectations of their students, including those from other countries.' (Kukulska-Hulme et al, 200x1:18)

FROM THE INTRODUCTION

"Learners can be active makers and shapers of their own learning. They should be supported in using technologies of their own choice where appropriate". (JISC, 2009, p.51)

Mobile (as they were) will not necessarily be readily adapted for learning.

Ergonomic, pedagogical, psychological and environmental facts and the issue of cost (Stockwell, 2008)

More widespread adoption by students and teachers is likely to follow. (ibid 2011:19)

A convenient and powerful tool for learning.

In an age when "communities are jumping across technologies" as needs and trends evolve (Wenger, 2010), educators and researchers also have to stay informed about how learners use personal technologies as members of communities that may be social, work-related or educational'.

Decreasing institutional control

Jones, Ramanau, Cross and Healing (2010) have critiqued the 'new generation' arguments, concluding that "overall there is growing theoretical and empirical evidence that casts doubt on the idea that there is a defined new generation of young people with common characteristics related to their exposure to digital technologies through-out their life (p.6)

Notable minorities

- Internet to download or upload materials (major minority)

- Contribute to blogs and wiki and engage with virtual worlds (ibid p.21) (minor minority)

'We consider that learners who use handheld mobile devices (e.g., their phones and mp3-players) to support their learning constitute a minority at the present time. We agree that their age seems less important than their position as early adopters and instigators of change through their influence among their peers and through their networks'. (2011:19)

Students registered on such programmes would be particularly strong. (Distance learning).

The sample was purposive.

For key areas:

- Learning

- Social Interaction

- Entertainment

- Work

- Interplay between them (Kukulska-Hulme & Pettit, 2009)

'Learning' is not an unambiguous term ... instead of the double negative why not 'learning is an ambiguous term'.

Does the rhetorical device of the double negative make the statement less assailable?

'We were interested in gathering data that might challenge the still widespread opinion amongst educators that mobile devices are of little use for academic study. Activities such as web browsing, reading e-news, article reading, book reading, and note taking are valued in the academic world but often considered implausible on handheld devices.' (2011:20)

Until more recently that his study which was carried it 2009.

Since the survey was developed, other devices including notebook computers and e-book readers have become popular, making it even more difficult to draw boundaries between 'handheld learning', laptop learning' and 'desktop learning'. (2011:21)

As if such a distinction was ever necessary? They are all computers, just different sizes, affordances and capabilities.

I liken this loss of boundaries, or the blurring, to drops of ink in a tank of water that gradually swirl about each other and merge.

We are able to highlight some differences that became apparent

Conversations with their students

Students do not always realise the potential of new tools and this is an aspect where educators can help (Trinder, Guiller, Margaryan, Littlejohn & Nicol, 2008)

Questions covered:

- About yourself

- Use of mobile devices

- Being part of groups and communities

- Specific uses for mobile devices

- Mobile devices for learning

- Open questions enabled participants to write a response in their own terms.

A total of 270 students complete the questionnaire.

Over all the report notes that:

- There are receptive, productive and communicative uses

- Respondents are using mobile devices to capture ideas and experiences

- Mobile devices have a useful function as tools that remind he user about what she/he has to do.

- Respondents make use of a range of applications for informal learning.

- One function of games is to fill gaps in the day.

- Some respondents appear to be drawing boundaries around disparate uses

- The mobile phone features as an alternative means of communications and to sport physical mobility, e.g. as an alternative to having a land line or when work involves travelling.

RE: LEARNING

- Contact with others

- Access to information and answers

- Reading e-Books

- Listening to Podcasts

- Scheduling

RE: MORE UNUSUAL USES:

- Recording one's voice

- Replay on iPod

- Taking photos

- Contacting experts in other fields

- Uploading notes to blog

- Facebook

- Windows Live Messenger

- MSN

- Skype

- Language learning

- Finding information

- Headphones to shut out distractions

- Productive activities

'Reported benefits of using mobile devices to be part of groups or communities include spontaneous communications, flexibility, speed, stimulation and use of technology to cope with changing arrangement'. (2011:27)

27 Distinct uses of mobile devices (ibid, 2011:28)

The three most intensive uses are very clearly sending text messages, browsing websites and listening to music ... and reading e-news. (2011:28)

Responses included well established advantages such as convenient access to information or to the Internet and the ability to contact people whenever needed. Specific new/innovative aspects notes by respondents included (2011:29):

- Permanency of taking notes: paper is easily lost

- Multipurpose; you can take your work/entertainment with you

- Can combine work with a run with listening to a podcast

- Podcasts give access to unique historical/scientific content

- Suits auditory learners

- Closer relationship between students and teacher

- Multimedia in one small device is a timesaver for teachers

- Instant documentation of whiteboard notes

- Taking photos of overhead slides

- Help with learning disabilities

- Alternative news source/breaking news/immediate first hand reports

- Helps maintain a public diary with a community dimension

- Quick way to learn

- Gets you outdoors

- Field trips become more fruitful and challenging

DISCUSSION AND REFLECTIONS

Mobile devices are shown to support informal; and community learning

While the predominant se for mobile devices is communication, it seems that other aspects of social interaction can benefit, such as the ability to share media between mobile devices directly or blended across other social networking technologies like Facebook.

The research confirms the global popularity of SMS, browsing websites, listening to music, taking photographs and making notes. It also highlights that reading e-news and listening to podcasts are relatively frequent activities among some students, and that article- and book-reading, once considered implausible on handheld devices, are popular among a minority. (2011:30)

What is interesting is that there appear to be many ways in which users are employing technologies to generate products. Bruns (2005) coined the term 'produsers' to denote both of these approaches. One survey shows that mobile devices are enabling users to create resources for teaching purposes, write blogs to keep their friends up to date with events, take and distribute photos and videos, and make and take notes and recordings'. (2011.31)

New practices compared to old studies (2007/2009) include:

- Using apps on the phone including Facebook and MSN

- Using GPS to find places

- Watching movies, TV, shows, vodcasts

- Listening to audio books, podcasts

- Being part of microblogging communities e.g. Twitter

- Browsing websites

- Using location-based services, e.g. to find nearby taxis, banks, restaurants, etc.

- No longer having a land line.

- Mobile device use is a fast-changing field that reflects rapid social changes as well as the increasing availability and smarter marketing of new devices. (ibid, 2011:32)

Micro-blog - are becoming more widespread, and we would expect these uses to figure more prominently in the future. (2011:32)

Slate devices Apple iPad.

Several universities now offer 'apps' for smartphones using platforms such as Campus M.

‘Our findings indicate that institutions planning to offer mobile apps should build on the existing preferences of students for social communication. Listening to audio, watching video and reading short texts if the apps are successfully to enhance the learning experience’. (2011:32)

When students are offered appropriate mobile resources then they will use them. (2011:32)

We agree with Kennedy et al (2008) that 'an evidence-based understanding of students' technological experiences is vital in informing higher education policy and practice.' (p. 109)

Pressures of study and assignment deadlines lead them to seek effective solutions to immediate needs on the go. (2011:33)

Avoid a 'proadoption bias'

‘Furthermore, since the use of a mobile device represents a new technological means of reading books, articles and news, this might have an impact on how, and how much, students read, however further research would be needed’. (2011:33)

The landscape of mobile devices has changed since our survey with some devices (standalone PDAs) becoming almost extinct and others (handheld GPS) endangered. (2011:33)

In favour of smart mobile phones and tablet devices.

REFERENCE

Bruns, A. (2005) 'Anyone can edit': understanding the produser. Retrieved from http;//snurb.info/index. php?q=node/s86

Conole, G (2007) Describing learning activities: Tools and resources to guide practice. In Beetham, H, & Sharpe, R (eds.), Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age: Designing and delivering e-learning (pp.81-91) London, UK: Routledge

Kukulska-Hulme, Agnes, John Pettit, Linda Bradley, Ana A. Carvalho, Anthony Herrington, David M. Kennedy, and Aisha Walker. "Mature Students Using Mobile Devices in Life and Learning." IJMBL 3.1 (2011): 18-52. Accessed (May 22, 2011)

JISC. (2009). Effective Practice in a Digital Age: A guide to technology-enhanced learning and teaching. Retrieved from http://www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/programmerelated/2009/effectivedigital-age.aspx

Rogers, E.M. (2005) Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.) New York, NY: Free Press

Jones, C.R., Ramanau, R., Cross, S., & Healing, G. (2010) Net generation or Digital Natives: Is there a distinct new generation entering university? Computers & Education, 54(3), 722-732. doi. 10.1016/j.compendu.2009.09.022

Stockwell, G (2008) Investigation learner preparedness for and usage patterns of mobile learning. ReCALL, 20(3), 253-270. doi.10.1017/S058344008000232.

Trinder, K., Guiller, J., Margaryan, A., Littlejohn, A., & Nicol, D. (2008). Learning from digital natives: bridging formal and informal learning. Retrieved from http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/York/documents?LDN%20FINAL%eport.pdf

Wenger, E (2010). SIKM community presentation online. Theme: Rethinking Ourselves (KM People) as Technology Stewards. Retrieved from http://technologyforcommunities.com

 

 

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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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The PROWE Project

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Recommended reading for MAODErs

The Prowe Project

Come back here and discuss??

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H800; 70 Activities, activities, activities

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 17 May 2011, 17:50

I came from an industry in 2000/2001 that put bells and whistles on websitess and clients lined up to spend money on a future no one could predict but were desperate to 'be there.'

How sober, academic institutions can throw money at some platforms like Second Life I can't fathom, to try these things yes, but not at the expense of other tools.

Better to be the 'late adopter' in this case, to pick up tools once others have shown they work. What's the inordinate hurry? The technology can only develop in one direction. It isn't going away.

Students, indeed any of us, will drop technology that doesn't work or meet expectations.

It has to be easy, obvious, accessible, cheap (ideally free), for whichever platform you wish to use it on: desktop, laptop ... even tablet and smart-phone.

I'm also reminded what I hear all about me .... 'acitivities, activities, activities.'

This does not need hi-tech (though it can). As I noticed in the General Forum someone is asking if text is more interactive than video.

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H800 WK13+14 Activty 3a Vignettes

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 30 Aug 2011, 04:10

As you read through this part of Weeks 13 and 14 bear the following questions in mind.


VIGNETTE A

How do these students use technology in their studies?

-        It’s real. It was the online labs.

-        program proper CISCO equipment

-        test what you were learning

-        get actual real life work done even though it was still virtual.

-        a proper CISCO router

-        you get to take that away straight away and be able to program real routers.

-        When reading from a book you’ve not got reassurance that you can do it.

Students could use this for a ‘dry run’ offline, before taking the online tests using NetLab, which was much appreciated, as this student’s comment makes clear:

-        Packet Tracer … I’ve got a lot of respect for that – very, very good. Also I like the quick reference of it. You’re reading through something and you want to work out the output for something and you think, oh I’ll check on that and you can fire it up and within 15 seconds you’re logged on.

-        Quizzes will ‘fix in your mind’.

-        The best course I have done with the OU … because there is so much hands-on

-        A good way forward as long as simulations are realistic such as Netlab

Why do this course?

Strategically – to sit the examination for the CCNA qualification.

‘I like the idea of this being a ‘hands-on’ technical industry qualification.

-         encourage frequent practice,

-         reflection on progress

-         study using different media

-         study using different perspectives.

VIGNETTE B

ICT skills are an essential part of the curriculum but not the primary focus

She needs to complete an OU Social Work degree in order to become a registered Social Worker. She is sponsored by her employer and coping with a high workload – two OU courses studied concurrently, plus a job and home responsibilities.

The OU course includes ICT skills activities in all these areas and also skills development in information literacy.

Interviewer: Did you use any of your skills from work to do the exercises?

Student: Yes absolutely … I probably took some stuff from work to be able to do it and I took some stuff from the exercise in order to develop myself in work.

I’ve sort of had to learn a different method of doing things and had to go through it all step by step.

It’s something that will be really useful but at the moment is taking so much time for me to learn how to do it and that’s taken away from time I could be doing other stuff. 'Borrowing time from somewhere else’. Terry O’Sullivan. (2011)

She welcomes the fact that most of her course is available online and it increases the accessibility of it away from her home computer.

(People’s perceptions of how much they can fit in … on the one hand flexible learning allows you to fit it in around other things … but it might encourage some to do additional courses and so have even great pressure on their time. These choices are the students’.)

This student also reported that she used ICT in her personal life, mainly for shopping and booking holidays.

I’ve learned how to do things like – what you call it – screen shots? I remember being really excited about that.

What insights are gained by looking at how students’ experience of technology-enhanced learning is affected by their work practices and vice versa?

Understand their wishes, favoured modus operandi, desire to put learning into practice immediately, desire for support, even acceptance that facts have to be learnt, tried out and put into practice until it becomes second nature.

The modules selected for this research project included two from Technology, two from Social Work, one from Business and one from Computing.

ICT is part of the personal, study and work experience of most students well before they enter a university. As you have seen, students use technologies they already feel confident about to help them study.They may or they may not use the technological tools provided by their university, such as a virtual learning environment (VLE).

Undoubtedly, peer contact, accessing module information and so on are essential for effective study. But you also need to look at how technologies are used in direct support of the learning outcomes for which students are studying.

Richardson’s (2005) account argues that students vary in how they perceive the requirements of the same module, and that, even when this variation in perception is taken into account, they vary also in their approaches to studying.

Six conceptions of learning were identified in these data, and Richardson argues that conceptions of learning are a key influence on approaches to studying, which in turn impacts on learning outcomes.

Learning as:

  • 1 the increase of knowledge
  • 2 memorising
  • 3 the acquisition of facts or procedures
  • 4 the abstraction of meaning
  • 5 an interpretative process aimed at the understanding of reality.
  • 6 a conscious process, fuelled by personal interests and directed at obtaining harmony and happiness or changing society.

As you read each vignette, look out for statements illustrating each of the six themes.

Pay attention to how ICT relates to work experience and vice versa, how (if at all) applying learning to work influences the study process, and so on.

What do these vignettes suggest about the importance of the student’s work when designing modules where ICT plays a key role?

Choice to enable them to fit it around their lives.

Bite-size, in terms of easily isolated activities that can be fitted into a tight period of time … or strung together when a longer study period is possible.

Variety of ways in to accommodate, to some degree, the experiences (or lack of) that they bring with them from their working lives, experience of studying and from home.

As Richardson’s (2005) says students vary in how they perceive the requirements of the same module.

Technologies are used in direct support of the learning outcomes for which students are studying … but are just as readily applied in our daily lives i.e. the boundaries between skills used for work and at home, particularly if computers are used in both locations.

Just because you provide a tool, or put in an activity, or offer additional reading, does not mean students will use them. ‘Students use technologies they already feel confident about to help them study. They may or they may not use the technological tools provided by their university, such as a virtual learning environment (VLE).

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H800 Wk13 Activity 4b Frankly, Prensky and his lot deserve to be lampooned and satirised

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 4 Oct 2012, 11:41

W 13+14: Activity 4b: Making sense of the student experience

Read Bennett et al. (2008) ‘The “digital natives” debate: a critical review of the evidence’.

As you read consider the following questions:

____________________________________________________________________

What do you understand by the use of the term ‘moral panic’?

Or the ‘immoral panic’, or the lunacy that has academics and politicians jumping on catch-phrases like ‘the Net Generation’ that are totally sensationalist, eye-catching, worthless, unfounded, claptrap.

In fact they are pandering to our base desires, the belief or wish that there is a narrative to our existence that says it is always rubbish now and can be fixed by reading their book, with its oh too neat title.

Here's another soap-box wonder who believed she had the answer to everything:

Mary%20Whitehouse.jpg

Moral panic (Cohen, 1976) … Mary Whitehouse caused many in relation to smut on TV.

There is a pressing need for theoretically informed research – the concept of ‘Digital Natives; is popularist and designed to sell a book(s) and the lecture/consultancy services of the person who coined the phrase, ‘Marc Prensky.’

So what is a ‘moral panic’?

Anything that gets JPF (just plain folk, a John Seely Brown expression I love) feeling anxious, that things on right in their world and the false prophet spouting doom and gloom is also the one with the answers - just follow them! Converts then to rant about this High Priest of the quick fix - Prensky is of course right about everything (just read the pages of gushing enthusiasm that he puts in his books. Try reading them; for a different product much of this would be professionally written to go on the back of a Cornflakes packet). The educational world will be saved from the horrors of the natives gone digital, if we only listen to him (then praise him to the hilt).

The research from Bennett says this about Prensky's thesis:

- Little critical scrutiny

- Undertheorised

- Lack of sound empirical basis

Dangerously Bennett reportsto address this proclaimed challenge, some high-profile commentators are arguing for radical changes in curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and professional in education.’

Marc%20Prensky%20Teaching%20Digital%20Natives%20GRAB.JPG

Prensky and his lot deserve to be lampooned and satirised

Worse, they are given genuine educators working with technology a bad name. Professional educators are on the side of teachers and lecturers creating tools that are convenient, easy, transportable, and hopefully engaging, best of all permitting a large class, or cohort to have some sense of ‘student-centred’ learning through tools that enable a taste of the that priviledged Oxbridge one-to-one tutorial that 800 years on is far from threatened by e-learning and digital everything, indeed it thrives and has become even more precious and valued.

I was suckered into believing Marc Prensky as a naive MAODE student in my first module, H807.

I wanted to believe that Prensky had the answers to everything because I was working in a business in 2000/2001 that wanted clients to believe that if we created immersive, game-like learning online for them their students would teach themselves. Prensky pushed the problem, we offered a response.

This 'Digital Natives' thing is as vacuous as airfreshening devices in the home; it is a marketing gimmic designed to sell a product.

Prensky has no answers, and befuddles it all for us, worse academics have initially picked up his thread and have been terribly slow to get the research done that quite frankly demonstrates the nonsense that has been used to sell Prensky’s books and lecture series.

'Claims are put forward with limited empirical evidence' ( e.g. Tapscott, 1998) or 'supported by anecdotes and appeals to common-sense beliefs' (e.g. Prensky, 2001), who also cites Captain James T Kirk form Star Trek (sic) … as if a fictional character, or the show (rather than its author) should be the one to cite at all.

Were 'Digital Natives' presented as an ECA it might pass, but the feedback would call it 'light' and poorly referenced.

'The reality is complex and diverse', says Bennett not just across a nation, but probably in many classes themselves. It’s as if Prensky and his crew are suggesting that this generation were born with a third eye or six fingers.

(Actually, they are ‘The Simpson’ Generation and we need to worry that they’ll all turn yellow and chop of a finger from each hand).

Can we take seriously an academic writer who cites Star Trek? And references quotes like this? Prenksy says he studied at Princeton and Harvard? What did he study?

Prensky could be, making it up.There is no means to check most of the references, if you can call them that.

I bought 'Educating Digital Natives' it is unacademic twaddle from beginning to end.

It's no better than one of those self-help books you can pick up in an airport.

 

So what is a ‘moral panic’

Anything that gets JPF (just plain folk, a John Seely Brown expression I love) to have a rant … ideally to rant about how this prophet Prensky is right about everything and the educational world will be saved if we only listen to him (then praise him to the hilt).

What does this article suggest to you about the technological determinist thrust of the Net Generation argument?

Academic writers and current research, writing in calm, objective tones (Kennedy, Conole and others) knock flat every piece of ‘hear say’ from these authors for what it is – journalistic, sensationalist nonsense.

I have to question Marc Prensky’s credentials; I simply cannot believe an academic with a Harvard MA could possibly write like this, indeed I want to ask Harvard to confirm that this is the case.

‘The researchers found that only a minority of the students (around 21%) were engaged in creating their own content and multimedia for the Web, and that a significant proportion of students had lower level skills than might be expected of digital natives.’ (Bennett 2008:02)

Kennedy’s research in Australia says it all.

Emerging technologies are NOT the lifeblood of a generation, far from it. Research amongst students in three Australian universities showed that:

  • 21% blog
  • 24% used social networking
  • 21.5% used podcasts

i.e. far from universal in this generation as the self-publicists of ‘Net Generation’, ‘Digital Natives’ or ‘Millennials’ would have us think.

Is there a theoretical or empirical basis to the arguments that are presented using the terms, Net Generation, Digital Natives or Millennials?

None whatsoever.

As Bennett said, we had a go at kids watching too much TV in the past. This is their lives and ours; it is the world as it is today. Nothing whatsoever has changed physiologically or psychologically about us humans, how we develop and grow.

The concept of any generation been universally similar fails to recognise differences related to:

  • Socio-economic status
  • Cultural/ethnic background
  • Gender
  • Discipline specialisation

Internet use by teenagers is far from uniform

  • Widely varying experiences according to children’s school and home backgrounds (Lee, 2005)
  • Family dynamics
  • Level of domestic affluence

Multiskilling claims … are facts that equate to young people at this stage in their developmental processes and is the same today as it was a thousand or ten thousand years ago – ability to work in fine detail, to work on several tasks at the same time.

‘A significant proportion of young people do not have the levels of access or technology skills predicted by proponents of the digital native idea. Such generalisation about a whole generation of young people thereby focuses attention on technically adept students. With this comes the danger that those less ale will be neglected and that the potential impact of socio-economic and cultural factors will be overlooked’. (Bennett, 2008:02)

Although such claims may appeal to our common-sense perceptions of a rapidly changing world, there is no evidence that multi-tasking is a new phenomenon exclusive to digital natives’, (Bennett, 2008:02)

Just because something resonates with our personal observations doesn’t make it so. Frankly, Prensky et al should be stand-up comics – you have to laugh, at their nonsense and how gullible we are to want to believe them.

‘Generalisations about the ways in which digital natives learn also fail to recognise cognitive differences in young people of different ages and variation within age groups.’ (Bennett, 2008:02)

People change their approach according to their perceptions of the task.

  • ‘It is apparent that there is scant evidence to support this idea, and that emerging research challenges notions of a homogenous generation with technical expertise and a distinctive learning style’. (Bennett, 2008:03)
  • ‘Our analysis of the digital native literature demonstrates a clear mismatch between the confidence with which claims are made and the evidence for such claims.’
  • ‘Arguments are often couched in dramatic language, proclaim a profound change in the world, and pronounce stark generational differences’ (Bennett, 2008:03)
  • ‘Such claims with appeals to sense and recognisable anecdotes are used to declare an emergency situation, and call for urgent and fundamental change.’ (Bennett, 2008:04)

The problem is that Prensky is an easy read.

Too many people prefer this than wading through dry, hard-nosed analysis of the truth. The truth? Business as usual. E-learning to education is what a whole raft of tools were to the housewife in the 1950s and 1960s … they make it easier to get the job done. They make life more convenient.

In the case of education it makes realisation, for some, the dream of more student-centred learning, possible.

If there is a generational shift it ought to be that more people are gaining access to an education on their terms. We have moved from a teacher-centred model of teaching (Kember, 1997) … which only existed/exists of necessity (not everyone has ever been wealthy to give their children a personal governess then tutor) … to supporting students’ active learning, the student-centred model (Gibbs, 1995).

If there is, what do you think are the key features of this change in generations?

How might these changes affect education?

Did serendipity bring me to this?

'An evaluation of students' perceptions and engagement with e-learning components in a campus based university'. (2011) Afam Ituma

All your answers to the MAODE in eight pages.

 

 

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Spreading the word through multiple links in social media

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 13 May 2011, 15:44

A week ago I was clearing out the shed and came across a Diablo ... a Bowtie-like shape. It struck me that this could be a way to represent the traditional relationship between an organisation and the public, the messages are funnelled through a spot.

I've done various drawings on this theme

Each stage represents the spreading of the 'word' at and from a variety of 'touch points' in an organisation, gradually increasing so that dialogue between people inside and outside an organisation have increased greatly to their mutual benefit.

DSC01718.JPG

Then I say this, the light from a small vase on a table.

If I could visually double this up as a mirror image then I'd be getting some sense of the dynamism that is still a vital part of communications, as inventive as always, and usually all the IT tools at its disposal to create, share and respond,

DSC01725.JPG

Social Media isn't replacement anything ... it is easy, convenient and of the age. It suits and comes out of the direct way we've learnt to communicate through email and messaging.

All I visualise are these lines of 'activity' spreading between an institution and its public to create something that might resemble a funnel.

The same thinking applies to education, that the realtionship used to be funnel through a teacher to a student in a classroom who belong to a cohort, or through a lecturer into a lecture hall. The opportunity to create (or the necessity to permit) a broader breadth and depth of two way communication is permitted by social media.

These lines of communication are personal, and one to one.

They are forged through links in websites, links in print and from TV, links offered up through Twitter and blogs. They are conversations that are picked up in Linkedin or Facebook.

The expression 'old news keeps like fish' can no longer apply ... far from going off, the write message, insight or assistance is kept alive and made even more meaningful as it is shared and stored and linked to.

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H800 62 The Masters in Open and Distance Education in eight neat pages

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 13 May 2011, 18:43

Interested in e-learning? I am. This says it all to date. Read and share.

Did serendipty bring me to this?

I thought I'd linked to it in the reading. 'An evaluation of students' perceptions and engagement with e-learning components in a campus based university'. (2011) Afam Ituma

This is the OU MAODE in 8 pages.

Enjoy!

 

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H800:61 Wk13 Activity 2a

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 25 Nov 2011, 14:02

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.

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H800: 58 WK 12 ACTIVITY 2

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 30 Aug 2011, 04:55

H800 WK 12 ACTIVITY 2

As you read the paper, think about the ways in which similar ideas were discussed in previous weeks and refer to the relevant module materials:

Do you think the innovations described in Weeks 8 and 9 as ‘learning design’ would induce more desirable approaches to studying on the part of the students?

The student (maturity, experience of education, opportunity, access, support)

But is also depends on the learning designer (as teacher)’s approach, whether deep or surface learning (Marton, 1977); or thinking of the six approaches to learning Saljo (1979) came up with.

The importance here is how much effort is put into creating activities in the learning experience, forcing the student’s hands in some respect by obliging them to go along with the ‘deep’ approach. I would therefore favour, to cover more bases, activities that are also fun and engaging, with a sensible allocation of time to do them. This has to be preferable to shallow, passive learning.

Compare Marton’s idea that some students regard learning as something that just happens to them with Sfard’s account that you read in Week 3.

Marton (1976) doesn’t say that learning is something that ‘just happens to them,’ what he says is that in contrast to deep learning where the students take an active role ‘seeing learning as something they do themselves’ those who adopt surface learning ‘approach learning in a passive role and see learning as something that just happens to them.’

You may not have encountered the literature that Richardson describes. In Week 4, Chris Jones asked you to think about your own definition of ‘learning’. Do the concepts, theories and evidence described in my paper fit your own experience as a learner?

Yes. If you ask a closed question. I hadn’t thought that different disciplines would take or do take a different approach to learning. That between them French, Geography, History, Maths, Physics, Biology, Art and so on were in part enjoyed or loathed depending on whether the engagement was personally driven or dictated to us as passive learners. Teachers in their ways can easily turn a student off or onto a subject. The same can apply at a distance with learning design. A balance has to be struck, with variety, to cover different experiences of learning and their differing expectations of the way to do things. I am therefore interested in Kember (1997) definitions of approaches to teaching.

Interaction between the teacher and student, and facilitating understanding on the part of the student the key motivators and the experience of a number of subjects … even as an adult I find there is too much ‘teaching as imparting information’ which I find takes five or six stabs before it sticks (reluctantly).

Which of Säljö’s five conceptions of learning best fits your own definition?

‘Learning as an interpretative process aimed at the understanding of reality’.

If you have (or have had) a role in teaching or training, do the concepts, theories and evidence described in my paper fit your own experience as a teacher or trainer? If you haven’t had such a role, ask your tutor whether they fit their experience as a teacher.

I could discuss Kimbers (1997) approaches to teaching at length from the point of view of a coach, someone who created distance learning materials (video and course books) and very rarely a teacher with a class of secondary school students for a day. I could also compare teaching practices almost from my first year at school through university and postgraduate courses/training.

The approach to teaching can make or break a course … it can kill a subject you love, or bring to life something you approached with trepidation.

Do you find the argument convincing?

‘Students who hold a reproductive conception of learning through exposure to a subject-based curriculum may simply find it hard to adapt to a more student-centred curriculum.’

I have suffered through some modules of a Swimming Coach course which couldn’t accommodate people who’d loathed school, didn’t want to learn, just wanted to know the answers. It frustrated that better instructors too. It saddened me that their experiences of learning had been so poor.

You may find the similarity between the models in Figure 1 and Figure 2 beguiling, but are the models really justified?

I don’t get the diagrams at all … though I am guilty of doing things just like it. It strikes me that they are slides from a presentation without the attached commentary.

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H800: 57 Week 12. Activity 2+ Richardson

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 31 Aug 2011, 12:46

I admire the way Richardson picks his way through the CIBER/UCL document and then presents his own reports as a model of social science excellence. He has a valid point, even if I find the stats themselves impossible to decipher. I recognise the research methodology and hope to reach this standard eventually - perhaps with the MRes after the MA?

Ciber/UCL presumes that Google generation is a fact for others to disprove.

I don't support the all lower case choices for the contents – as if written on a Blackberry. Upper and Lower case serve a purpose that aids reading, even more than say choosing between serif and sans serif.

‘The untested assumption is that this generation is somehow qualitatively ‘different’ from what went before: that they have different aptitudes, attitudes, expectations and even different communication and information ‘literacies’ and that these will somehow transfer to their use of libraries and information services.’ p5

The longitudinal study sounds like guesswork. p6

Look at a Population Pyramid.

Which part of it is unequivocally Generation X or Y?

Do you look at a ward, a town, a region, a country or a continent?

When ‘Generation X’ or the ‘Google Generation’ is applied to people its said as if it applies to the entire population.

Perhaps there’s a state in California where every child is born with an iPad in their hands.

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/03/mind-vs-machine/8386/ Christian, Brian (2011) The Most Human Human

UK%20Population%20Pyramid%202010.jpg

We are told that the ‘Google Generation’ are those born after 1993. Google launched in 1996. It came to prominence, six years later? Who might I ask were the first to exploit Google? Not this age group. And just because they were born in the era of the search engine super powers does not make them ignorant of books (or libraries). Regarding these in relation to learning, here again we should challenge the term. Did we not, as children, learn far more from our mother, and parents, and our immediate family. Even once at school, what fraction of teaching here compares to the great period of time we spend away from school.

The language used, as Richardson advises us, could warn of a weakness in the factual nature of the report, ‘raises enormous issues for information providers’ hints of the scaremongering you get in the press. In any case, this could only be the outcome if nothing changes but a) the technology constantly strains to find a market by serving a valuable purpose and b) people catch up, they learn new things sooner.

‘The fact is, the human race got to where it is by being the most adaptive, flexible, innovative and quick learning species on the planet’ says Brian Christian in his 2011 book ‘The most human human. A defence of humanity in the age of the computer.’

This could be applied equally well in relation to the narrative across the Richardson papers, that the differences and difficulties between face-to-face and online learning have largely been overcome. We’re getting better at it, as his research shows. Online learning is becoming more face-to-face in its nature, but also plays to its strengths and differences with technology that is common place, inexpensive and intuitive.

I wonder how much of this I can relate back to weeks 8 & 9 though ... let's go and take a look.

Also here 'My mind bursts'

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The playing field for education in the UK is both muddled and uneven

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 31 Aug 2011, 04:53

Competition is a good thing, but the playing field is both muddled and uneven.

Remember, funding for higher education isn't simply from the State, but through corporates and research grants. What is more the UK has a long established history of private education at all stages; many parents plan to pay for their children's education, and where able set funds aside for tertiary education too through savings schemes.

Online support for learning, either blended or 100% at a distance, has become viable for ALL in tertiary education, so they are doing it. Even undergraduates on campus expect the kind of online facilities and support that may until recently been the sole domain of the distance learning student.

In the private sector, where I came from, creating commercial product at any stage: primary, tertiary and secondary was difficult for one simple reason - both students and institutions expected the resources to be free. One model therefore was to have content sponsored. Indeed that's how I came to succeed in producing careers materials (video) because it was all financed in advance by sponsors and distributed for free. DVD and online based course materials failed because no one would pay for it.

Ten years ago I prepared a report for my employer regarding the production of commercial learning materials, one offs for specific age groups and subjects. My conclusion was don't, unless it is all paid for upfront. Even the secondary sector is deeply affected by the BBC and their wonderful, free 'bitesize' series to support GCSEs.

There must be research on perceptions of UK universities. The cache of the long-established Oxbridge and Russell Group institutions must be substantial. From an employee point of view there are those who will divide hundreds (or thousands) of applications for a few graduate positions into two piles: Oxbridge or not.

Unsound and unfair, but if faced with ostensibly the same grade, but from different instituions, how do you differentiate short of seeing everyone for a first interview or reading exam papers for yourself?

The answer from the student's point of view used to be the CV thick with extra-curricula activities; I wonder if the future student should pack an e-portfolio, evidence of their worth and potential once away from the student 'desk'.

The last two decades has seen the private secondary sector buy into/ buy up primary sector 'prep' schools even establish pre-prep schools. I wonder to what degree this long-term relationship can be maintained into the tertiary sector?

The Eton Brand, for example, as a University, would be a valid offering in a global market.

 

 

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H800 53 Block 2 Approaches to learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 29 Aug 2011, 12:14

Richardson (2005), ‘Students’ approaches to learning and teachers’ approaches to teaching in higher education’.

This short, clear, bulleted article is the most straightforward and possibly most valuable text I've come across in the 14 months of the Masters in Open and Distance Education that I have thus far done.

No doubt its clarity is in part a product of my improved understanding and more extensive experience gained during this period; it slots into place.

Learning a foreign language (French)  I described fluency being akin to a fog lifting; it became clearer and intuitive. I wonder if I am approaching that point with online learning? Not that certainty is possible,

I'll return to Richardson often.

REFERENCE

Richardson, John T. E. (2005). Students’ approaches to learning and teachers’ approaches to teaching in higher education. Educational Psychology, 25(6), pp. 673–680.

http://oro.open.ac.uk.libezproxy.open.ac.uk/11509/

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Love your memories in a blog

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 20 Mar 2012, 16:35

Nabakov.JPG

“I think it is all a matter of love: the more you love a memory, the stronger and stranger it is." Nabakov

I thought 500 page views was a landmark, then 1000. There has been steady growth to 10,000. It went crazy for a week in April with 1,000 views a day then settled back to 150-250  day. Whose counting? Basic analytics are a form of recognition, even reward for the blogger. 50,000 is a biggy that has taken 14 months to achieve. 100,000 is unlikely within the Masters in Open & Distance Education, though a MRes, another module in the MAODE (because it interests me so much) or a MBA are all of interest for later in the year and all would be blogged upon right here.

Are you saying something worthwhile to this audience?

Even if I feel the PC Screen is a mirror and I'm writing this for my benefit first as a reference I can return to later: what did I think? Where is that quote? Where was I in the learning process? Aren't I glad I've moved on! Editing old entries, bringing them up-to-date develops this. As Nabokov wrote,

Read Backwards

e-Reading 'A New Culture of Learning' backwards in a large font isolating interesting gems I may have missed. Also reading it by search word; 'play' works and is appropriate with over 160 mentions.

I liken this to panning for gold.

Once I've done this a few times typing out notes may be irrelevant; I'll know it. 'Play as the new form of learning?'

One final thought. Two decades ago I liken learning to a nurturing process, of an educator/teacher or course designer/principal sprinkling water on the heads of students buried like heads of lettuce emerging from the ground.

This no longer works for me.

What I now see are kids in a large paddling pool having fun and making up games with toys offered to them by supporting parents and older siblings.

The mantra for e-learning is 'activity, activity, activity', perhaps it ought to be 'play, play, play'; that's what you'll come away with if you read John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas 'A New Culture of Learning; cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change.'

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H800 51 Wk11 Why this is like talking with your fingers

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 20 Dec 2011, 06:03

As it is a bank holiday and the first in many years that I recall being sunny, I find I am getting online for an hour or two at dawn to do some stiudent work and write this. Then I walk the dog along the River Ouse or up on the South Downs and the day is mine/ours.

Painting the porch sad

Then nodding off in the sun with a course book or two, a couple in print, a 2011 publication from John Seely Brown on the Kindle.

How, when and why blogs and threads work or fail is the topic of conversation.

I used to treat forums and assignments, optional or otherwise, as the weekly essay - something I had to do whether or not I engaged with others. I would also take part on a whim, responding to some entries, and happily letting the conversation drift off topic. Length was no object either. I lurked in other tutor forums too, making the time to follow how what ought ostensibly to be the same conversations could be very different indeed - some very active, some dead.

A year on I am more strategic.

I would like to be sharing the learning process, contributing to the conversations whether I can help or not, whether I am seeking answers or asking questions. The Cafe and General area serves a purpose to take 'over spill' though it functioned best in H808 where a moderator management the supplementary activities.

Gilly Salmon's 'E-moderating' has a good deal to say on this.

It is worth owning,. not simply to read cover to cover, but to have as a reference. I may not like the term 'e-moderator', but 'moderator' is, however diminishing or disparaging to a Dphil, the main function here. It could be carried out by a postgrad student, even an animated undergrad.

What matters is engagement.

Someone may need to act as the 'eyes & ears' for the group until it is established. Introductions have to be made, conversations started and moved along ... if anyone is rude, they should be quietly put in their place; if anyone is being like a door-mouse, they need support.

'The essential role of the e-moderator is promoting human interaction and communication through the modelling, conveying and building of knowledge and skills'. (Salmon, 2005:4)

There isn't a structure, no more than there is in a car or coffee bar.

The structure comes about from the people and activity in it. This is shaped entirely by the behaviour of the participants. 1) They have to turn up 2) Someone has to have something to say 3) Some of us need to be going around like a host, 'making polite conversation', 'networking', even introducing people. It IS a social gathering.

Tutor is a better term. It is valid.

Indeed the beauty of working online is that you can recreate the essence of an 'Oxbridge Tutorial', that privilege one-to-one, or one to two or three, that is the weekly essay read out and discussed.

Discussion is the key.

The tutor DOES NOT need to be a subject matter expert. See my interview with Oxford Senior Lecturer Dr Zbigniew Pelczynski.

Whilst the tutor cannot keep waving pixie dust over a group that simply does not gel they ought to try, especlally in the first weeks and especially with students new to this set up.

Why I participate in some forums and not others.

Often because someone else has started the ball rolling, and often. I will be the first if I have a need to get through the week's work and no one else has made a start. I may fret about covering all bases giving my response too much thought ... and therefore resulting in something overly long. Not easy to adhere to but I try to set parameters; 250 words typical, 500 words an absolute max after that think about offering it as an attachment.

It can be like chosing a restaurant!

You want to go where there's some buzz already, though not so much that you feel you will never be able to join in the conversation.

The reality is different.

This is an asynchronous beast. If I come in late I may read every post with care before I respond, which can result in a long response. People should feel just as comfortable simply answering the question, ignoring others at first .. or just reading the last couple of posts and responding to them.

It is tempting to respond to someone in a DIFFERENT tutor group if they say something strong; you're not supposed to do so! I might quote them in my own group. There have been times when lifting the thread of catalyst that got them going in another group will do the same in your own.

How my input is affected by the way the forum is structured.

At Harvard they use as system called 'Rotisserie' in some asynchronous threads/forums which, like playing pass the parcel (or pass the microphone) require people to take it in turns to say something. No harm there! No all the time, but for ice-breakers and specific, important threads it may work very well. Everyone has something worth saying, our differing perspectives are a vital part of the experience.

I'd like these threads to be presented very differently, as cards placed around a table. This sounds like a step towards a Virtual World. I just don't 'see' conversations as lists or 'toilet roll scrolls' from top to bottom, rather they should be in a circle at least, in a spiral at best.

It matters that activities have been designed that get people engaged without the need for a tutor all the time.

'Structured, paced and carefully constructed e-tivities reduce the amount of e-moderator time, and impact directly on satisfactory learning outcomes, adding value to the investment in learning technologies'. (Salmon, 2002a)

Do I behave differently in face-to-face tutorials?

I'm the student who says they understand but the tutor will see that on my face it says 'I still haven't a clue'. I will stop asking questions. Here I will ask more often, then start asking elsewhere, within h800, even beyond the Masters in Open and Distance Education. I'm still asking people how to visualise the learning process in threads, forums and blogs away from here.

Face-to-face people don't need to put up their hand to ask a question, you can read the person, you can tell if they are anxious to join in at some point. You don't need 'rotisserie' as people do take it in turns. Someone will act as the chair, even is there isn't one nominated. Think of us like the Village Elders taking it in turn to reflect on an issue.

Seeing that someone else has already made an effort to answer the week's questions I decide I can and should make the effort to do the same. It is easier to reply to the questions and ONE response than the question and 16 responses! i.e. I like to be second, or third to comment, rather than first or last. No good if everyone is hanging back. Perhaps between us we should nominate someone to go first each week!!!

'Online learning calls for the training and development of new kinds of online teachers - to carry out roles not yet widely understood'. (Salmon. 2005:10)

REFERENCE

Salmon, G (2005) E-moderating. The Key to teaching and learning online.

AND FINALLY, I relate to this, also from Gilly Salmon's book:

'Consider this medium as like talking with your fingers - half-way between spoken conversation and written discourse.' (Hawkridge, Morgan and Jeffs, 1997, quotes in Salmon 2005)

 

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Want to blog? Sources of inspiration and getting it down.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 15 Feb 2013, 12:06

photo%2520%25289%2529.JPG

ON BLOGGING

Sources of inspiration and getting it down.

Get this for a start: Use of Blogs (2006) Axel Bruns and Joanna Jacobs.

It persuades you why to blog. Each chapter is written like an academic paper - an essay at least. Chapter 5 I found I was copying out verbatim (which I can't do here). Go see 'Can Blogging Unspin PR' Trevor Cook.

Your starting off point can be anything at all, once you start (for me at least) it is like opening a vein.

Who cares if it is a note to yourself. If it’s work or course work remember that you can compose then recraft as often as you like; what is more, you can turn access on or off as you please too – even allow comments as you please – with other blog platforms the list of linking choices is as broad as the destination board at Heathrow – you can ‘blog’ to a person, a group, people in different groups and so on (though this is a level of complication may turn the novice off).

If you are at all stuck for content ideas then my suggestions are:

1) Write about the deep past (everything you write is of course in the past) – what this might means is thinking of your earliest experiences of whatever your blog may be about – if it is about education then try these:

2) Your best friend at nursery school

3) Your first day at school

4) The funniest thing that your witnessed or did at school

5) The first thing you learnt and how

6) Add a caption to an old photograph then expand these thoughts into the era.

7) A birthday party

8) A Christmas

9) A first book

All of these are possible jumping off points; once you’re in flight you’ll be surprised how easy it is to steer back to where you had planned to be - who cares about the journey you took to get there – you can leave it in or edit out the first paragraph / chapter.

If you kept a diary at any time in your life – milk it! Put it up, selectively, verbatim and / or relived – you can even retrofit the date.

Getting it down

There is a beauty and simplicity to pen/pencil onto paper. Personally I find typing it up afterwards tedious and will find myself inevitably expanding beyond the way the thing was initially written. The mistake here is that you can/do with ease turn a natural, conversational flow of thoughts into something else – verbose at best, disjoined at worst. You then get into editing and saving sections/chunks for future entries.

Ideally, whether you have notes, an essay plan or mind map to guide you, I’d recommend typing directly into the Blank Box. The QWERTY keyboard is a piano keyboard and you’re playing a ditty or having a jam.

Most blog platforms have ample editing tools, the only warning is to save regularly in some if you are prone to distraction.

Even back up onto a clipboard or Word, though personally I’m not a fan of overworking a piece in Word first.

Have a notepad, record a thought on paper or into a digital recorder, have a device that you can readily use on the go – my most fruitful blogging years were when I had a Psion – I could type this spec-case sized device and draw it into my Mac to upload.

I’ll discover in due course an iPad can offer this facility – I believe it will (and some).

A final thought for now – if you can touch-type and write stream of consciousness then how many words can you get down in so many minutes?

Let’s say you think at FIVE words a second, talk at THREE words a second and type at 40-60 words a minute. In theory in five minutes you can blog between 200 and 300 words. Perfect length. Have a plan, three or so points to make and fire away.

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