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E-learning is at best clinical, at worst sterile

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 8 Jun 2014, 05:51

'Sterile' is apt; I'd be more forgiving ... 'clinical'.

I'm reaching these conclusions courtesy of a comment and discussion below. Thanks Cathy. 

I am very aware of wonderful of examples of e-learning used in the education of Junior Doctors (search Spaced-ed and QStream below) where understandably we expect them to know, to perfection, the bits and bobs of the human body.

Learn, repeat, test, and achieve higher grades as a result of using the QStream platform. 

'Sterile' is apt in any of the humanities where interpretation negates any kind of 'tick box' approach that might suit the costings of the assessment process but utterly fails the need for considerable discussion and interpretation.

To challenge my beliefs and expectations of learning I am already half way through a more traditional Masters Degree. I am 'reading' for this degree in every sense of the word. As I inch ever closer to a distinction ... three, then two marks off ... I put this down to my curiosity and personal pursuit through references and footnotes that are of interest to me.

I'm being disingenuous here of course. E-learning is fast becoming a mirror to 'learning', its scope suitably vast and varied to accommodate the good, bad and ugly of the genre. In particular, how learning objective are met will indicate the appropriateness of certain approaches; a learning by rote platform such as QStream is of great value ensuring that Junior Doctors know their stuff, but would be the wrong approach to teach philosophy. Often, history is a prime example, course context and prescribed texts are easily complimented with your own further reading. TED-like lectures work as an inspirational starting point. I swear by the game-like affordances of Rosetta Stone. 

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Where to begin

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 28 May 2014, 15:59

With no plans for further e-learning modules the aim now is to go back through four years of blogging in order to consolidate my thinking and experience. I feel like an ant being asked to draw a map.

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The right way and wrong way to assess

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 4 May 2014, 09:46

Looking back over four years can be revealing. In 2010 I was struggling with my third Tutor Marked Assignment (TMA03)  in the Master of Arts Open and Distance Education (MAODE). I queried the assignment process. In particular I felt as if it was akin to making a tapestry. Three years on I feel my last couple of TMAs and EMAs weren't simply making a tapestry - but doing so wearing roller-skates on a ship in a heavy sea.

Nothing would stitch together. I had far too much wool. 

The criteria, meant to be helpful, detailing paragraph, by paragraph if not sentence by sentence what the examiner is looking for ties my head in knots. 

I contrast this, favourably, with the MA I am doing with the University of Birmingham. Clunky but effective. I have a reading list. We attend lectures and take part in seminars and I write a 4000 word essay drawn from a list of 12 to 16 titles.

This allows me to be fluid, rather than the ground beneath my feet.

Throughout the MAODE I think the only module the regularly had this 'essay writing' approach was H809: Research practices in educational technology. 

I can be accused of over thinking and over preparing a TMA or EMA - yet this, too often, is how the things have been designed. Less would be more. Simpler would not be easier, writing is hard enough without having to second guess what a third party will be thinking as they read while running down a check list to give you a tick and therefore a mark and ultimately a grade.

Reflecting on four years I can see marks in TMAs, and EMAs especially, improve. I think TMAs in 60s, and 70s and the odd EMA in the 40s, then 50s give rise to TMAs of 80s, even in the 90s, though my best EMA was a 76. Of course, in their wisdom, my student grades for each module simply reads 'PASS'. I feel this rather diminishes the effort and evidence. There is certainly a different between a candidate scoring in the 40s and 50s between one scoring in the 60s and 70s and 80s. 

I met an MBA student who had achieved a distinction in every module. I was in awe. Not your usual OU student (are any from the Business School). She had a first in her first degree from Oxford: Classics. Some people have a mind for these things. Perhaps it is my head that sloshes around like the proverbial storm, rather than the system I have been part of?

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The Power of asking

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H818: The Networked Practitioner introduced all manner of traits that might be developed in relation to openness and online learning in particular. One idea was that of 'asking' - so crowd funding at one level and direct requests at the other rather than simply passively waiting for someone to come along and as if by osmosis offer their assistance with really knowing what it is that you want.

Asking to some, is selling to others. They are the same thing. We ask for funding, we ask for fees, we ask to be paid for our services.

The simplest example of an easy ask that is a by product of simply 'getting stuff out there' came yesterday from the British Library. They have just launched a web resource that gives free access to many hundreds of files, images  and artefacts that relate to the First World War.

The simple ask was for me to link to them from my blog on the First World War. My views aren't big, it is a niche subject to be interest in the Machine Gun Corps 1914-1918! But the 'ask' worked and in a small way this 'connectedness' with a little direct input should help give the subject matter some vibrancy.

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On the day I take H818 into the community

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014, 09:18

In the spirit of doing something different in order to effect change I attended a 'Get Together' organised by Wired Sussex and took the attitude that I would be open to everything and say 'yes' to all.

Over two hours I listened to, shared with and learnt from Neil, Gerry, Olly, Karla, Tristan, Simon, Michael ... and 'TV Simon' as I will call him to differentiated from business managing director 'Simon 16' (16 = number of employees). I only remember the people, what they said and names to faces as, shared with them, I did this thing of pegging a face to a place on a familiar journey - walking through the house.

And so I found Carla at the front door designing jewellery, Gerry on the stairs coaching folk in life skills, Tristan entering my bathroom talking agile eater falls, Kanban and SCRUM techniques while Simon was on the landing with our dog - his blonde hair and scruffy beard in keeping with our blonde Labradoodle perhaps?

Olly was in the garden talking to John, while Neil moved away and subsequently left.

These are only those I met.

There is no so much to follow up on: things to do, things to research, people to get back in touch with. So here's me making some kind of public promise to do so, including having a business card by the time of the next meet up. I own the domain name 'Mind Bursts' which is where I plan to seed ideas and seek ways for them to flourish and bare fruit.

Much of the conversation came from my experience of the Open University's Master of Arts on Open and Distance Education in general (graduated in 2012) and the module H818: The Networked Practitioner that ends tomorrow having submitted End of Module Assignments last week.

 

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Jonathan Joe had a mouth like an 'O'

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There is big O, and little o ... and so, so 'o'.  The open movement is I believe big O: a movement, a philosophy, even an evangelical drive to 'put it all out there'. Little 'o' is more circumspect, less brash, less demanding of attention and is, without scaring people, as much as should be expected of the 76% who don't get it, or don't want to get it. Then there is the 'so, so 'o': even the 'no, no 'o' where exposure becomes indecent. I'm not talking about THAT kind of exposure, rather that revealing and sharing of too much, especially if your enthusiasm to be online means that you talk about and show other people like a suburban or office paperizzi.

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Chaning behaviours in my Web 2.0 world courtesy of H818: The Networked Practitioner

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014, 06:51

Trying to rationalise and reflect on what next I've reduced it to this mnemonic:

S=Strategic

C=Connectedness, Collaboration and several other Cs

A=Applied

R=Reciprocal

F=Financed.

In that order too.

S =Strategic is a term I know a few fellow students of the MAODE have used. This means time management to some, curbing the desire to disappear down intellectual rabbit holes to others ... while for me it probably means taking on less and being more focused and less distracted. Immediately on leaving this space I will refine my contacts on Linkedin and reduce the groups I am in yet further. I should concentrate only on people I know or strategically relate to and then make time for them - ditto the groups. I only need to be in a couple. These can be vibrant and worthy of your attention. "S' might also stand for 'sustainable' - see 'financed' below.

C=Collaborative is probably key for me. Historically success has always come from at least two, sometimes a small team of us doing something. I find the second person or others creates a responsibility to see a thing through to its conclusion which may not happen when I am left to my own devices. And of course, two heads are better than one from a problem solving point of view.

A=Applied, over the other 'a' word 'academic'. While the MAODE usually draws from your real life experience I really want to be spending most of my time putting into practice the many insights and skills I have gained on the MAODE and had to bring into play for H818. This means, most likely, returning to L&D - agency side rather than client side. This may happen sooner rather than later as I have a second interview with a learning company this week. This would see me designing learning for workshops and online. 'A' needs also to stand for 'ask' - see 'Financed' and 'O' below. 

R=Reciprocal. This I have known for a decade. There is no 'gaming' the system to create collaboration or connectedness online. You have to be less selfish and more altruistic. It pays to seek out like minds and take an interest in them as they will return the favour. Just a handful of people will do. I feel I had deserted a few of the folk I used to converse with all the time ... and have let relationships with some people from earlier MAODE modules slip. No more!

F=Financed. So funded too. Contracted or raising funds for my projects. Applications have gone out seeking funds for the Quick Response Codes Poppy thing - either to apply it to the activities, say of the Western Front Association, or simply to go to schools or associations and give a talk ... which would in due course become a self-contained why and how to e-learning module. This means asking for money. Yes, it is about selling. Amanda Palmer is a reminder of this. Crowd funding is a little distance, while applying to appropriate sources of funding is another. The entrepreneur in me has raised funds commercially too in the past. If I need financing I have to ask for it.

There ought to be an 'O' in this coming out of H818, but I have to differentiate between 'Big O'', 'little o' and 'gratuitous exposure'. I tend to have been the former. It all goes online whatever its value or not. It doesn't take much to make more postings closed and use a blog as an e-portfolio so I will. I use to say to people that the best place to hide a secret was to post it in a blog - the sophistication of the probing search engines means that this is no longer the case (if it ever was?). Serendipity isn't as effective as a request i.e. 'ask'. So 'open', but nuanced. Early in this module we reflected on this. So I wonder what the outcome might be? For some it would be the value of being open at all, whereas for me it is to be less so. 

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S.C.A.R.F.

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Pushed to reflect on H818: The Networked Practitioner, and unique amongst MAODE modules the final unit comes after the EMA. Here we are encouraged not merely to reflect on the experience, but to share our future plans.

I put mine down to significant changes to behaviour based on the mnemonic SCARF:

S = Strategic

C = Connected and collaborative

A = Applied

R = Reciprocal

F = Financed

I'll expand on, then act on these on dues course.

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xMOOC or cMOOC?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 4 May 2014, 09:14

The realities of MOOCs

I stumbled upon this succinct article on MOOCs by Ben Betts.

MOOCs are why I returned to the OU having completed the Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) at the end of 2012. I followed H817:Openness and Innovation in eLearning, joining the Open but, and have now complete two further modules: H809: Research based practices in Educational Technology (with an eye on research) and the phenomenal H818: The Networked Practitioner (just completed) ... this as the field keeps transforming I intend to stay abreast of it. Indeed, I'll keep on eye on H817 for 2015 as this is a considerable advance on the old H807 I did in 2010 that had its content stuck somewhere between 1999 and 2005.

What is interesting in this article is that the author Ben Betts ponders as a passing thought at the end of the piece on the need to 'learn how to learn'.

This for me is where too many practitioners go wrong - they have their eye so firmly fixed on the 'next big thing' that they forget or ignore the understanding we have gained about how we learn over decades. There needs to be a healthy loop that obliges us to consider the basics: learning theories and to see MOOCs in context - all learning is 'blended' - even the purely online learning module is conducted by someone with their feet or bum firmly on the ground or in a chair.

The other mistake that other authors make too often is to sensationalise activities or developments such as the MOOC. Every advance builds on something else, and for all their strengths they have weaknesses too, and whatever affordances they have may be exploited or ignored. Interesting times and delighted to find an expert author and practitioner to follow.

What I needed, and got from H809 was a grounding in learning theory which at last I am starting to master. If a further course is required for me it would be more on the application of learning theory, probably in the broader setting of 'education' rather than an e-learning context and probably informed by a role educating on the ground - so practice based and applied. Which rather suggests in business - as indeed I did for the best part of 15 years. 

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On blogging. It isn't for the most part. Thoughts on my own future tracks

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 6 Mar 2014, 12:18

I posted my first content to an 'online journal' - no one called them blogs way back then, on the 24th September 1999. I've been at it ever since - every day for at least the first four years then I reviewed my practice, split into a number of parts and specialised. I also took an MA in the next best thing 'Open and Distance Education' (MAODE). So, yes, blogging fascinates me. Twitter as a 'microblog' is not - it is chatting. And many so called blogs are actually something else too - corporate marketing brochures, magazines, radio shows, TV channels, photo dumps and galleries. For me, and those of us writing in 'Diaryland' over a decade ago a blog, like a diary, is something you kept up every day, reflected your daily life and was largely secret: you wrote amongst friends rather than to an audience. This meant that they remained authentic, deep, even 'in confidence'. Has all of that been lost? I wonder. 

What we have here is either a 'learning journal' or 'an e-portfolio' - that's if you want to attach it directly to your studies. Because of it's odd nature and history it is also what was once called a 'Bulletin Board', indeed, I had a go of an early one right here - sort of, that as on a Masters in Open and Distance Learning module in 2001. It really was posting to a bulletin board, a sentence or two attached to any others that were going up. More like an early version of a Student Forum.

Having said all of this, as a direct result of just completing H818: The Networked Practitioner  (EMA away last night). I plan to review, refine and redirect my blogging behaviour. Here it will be business as usual, though only if my relationship with the Open University is continued in some capacity or other (I got up early to do some application forms). Beyond these 'walls' I will professionalise my blog on e-learning and post continent aimed squarely at practitioners - for educators, on learning. I do think the 'e' is redundant regarding e-learning, indeed the 'm' from mobile learning is redundant too. Currently at 'My Mind Bursts' this will go into the fledgling 'Mind Bursts' which will go live once I've got 100 of my choicest posts in there. Or, 25 ... my 'A to Y' of learning, named so courtesy of the Open University where you will find the Computer Help Desk has no 'Z', so don't think you can look up 'zipping files' as I did while struggling to post an EMA. The response I got back was characteristically obtuse. 

The blog I stopped posting to on swimming teaching and coaching (I did for ten years as a direct consequence of taking my kids down to the pool eleven years ago) gets more views per day than any of my other blogs - go figure! It is useful. I answer direct daily questions. The biggest 'seller' is the 45 minute lesson plan for teaching or coaching swimming - I have all strokes, all stages and all problems addressed. That should tell me something. More at the catchily named 'Coaching and Teaching Swimming'.

This by the way is called 'reflection'. I should have Kolb's Learning Cycle spinning through my head right now. I don't. My head is fudge and I need the coffee that is brewing on my desk,

The other blog, 'That's Nothing Compared to Passchendaele', which requires and deserves tidying up started out as the memoir of my late grandfather, a machine gunner in the First World War - the only one who survived it would appear. Actually, in 1992 there was a 75th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele (Third Ypres) and there were four of them. One was an ammunition carrier. The other two were machine gunners, you could tell from their thumbs - like the beak of a spoonbill, squished flat from periods of anxiety pressed against the triggers of a Vicker's MKII Machine Gun. Like the swimming thing I need to hone this down to a resource of value - just his story, his words (over three hours of interviews) and photographs with references which would do the historian in me proud.

There will be a lot of 'ditching of babies' - there will be a good deal of painful unknitting of layouts and extraction. 

Are these blogs? Actually no. I ought to think of them as books and give them the professional focus that is required before you can go to print.

And finally, a blog on the use of Quick Response codes in education. This as a consequence of H818 and the ten minute presentations we gave a couple of weeks ago.

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Blog usage

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 3 May 2014, 04:40

Is this new?

I've just looked at the statistics and was rather overwhelmed, ok over 600,000 views is going some, but I have been doing this for four years and use this as a blog and e-portfolio by default. 

Are there over 4000 posts! I guess from what I've said this is feasible, perhaps 40% are 'hidden' cut and paste jobs or links or references to books or papers I may never read.

And if I'm less engaged directly here this last year it is because those fellow students on the MAODE haven't been using the OU Student Platform at all ... or very little indeed. I'd recommend it.

The temptation is to stick around to take the 'views' up to 1 million. This will require a few more years. The thing is I don't see myself back on an OU module 'til the autumn of 2015 at the very earliest. I wrap up H818 today then concentrate on things elsewhere.

I say it often.

On verra

'We'll see'

Working in some capacity or researching at the OU would change things.

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My Personal Learning Environment

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 4 May 2014, 11:49

I should look back at how this has changed over four years. Taking on more technology took a while. I remember the days of printing off. Then I migrated to an iPad and constantly looked at ways not to come offline ever. Now I mix it all up: I use a white board, I doodle in a notepad and I shift between devices as everything is done in Google Docs.

I have some favourite apps:

  • SimpleMinds
  • Studio

And load perhaps 50-100 pictures to Picasa Web Gallery every day ... there are over 2000 images and screen-grabs from the MAODEs alone. And far too many pictures of the dog hiding when I take her for a walk.

My only bete noire are the ruddy cables you need to supply power to the kit; I went away for a few days armed with iPad and Macbook Air but forget the charger for the laptop. The iPad cable feels as if I am packing a coil of rope - it ways more with the plug and takes up more space.

My test over the next couple of months is when I set off for a month to Belgium, France and the Alps. Will I hanker after a robust broadband signal all the time?

 

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EMA Blues

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 2 Mar 2014, 16:49

Not at home and thinking of excuses not to get on with this - I have my laptop but left the charger at the front door, poor signal out here in the wilds of ... The Cotswolds, and busy. 

But instead I find the connecting is good, the last draft in Google docs is easy enough to work on (though no tables) and sitting by an open fire it is very conducive to refkection - though not hard graft. Just two days away from it makes it all look like a gargantuan task. I'm not short of words, rather the opposite, having to extract the bare bones to generate 5000 words from notes - this is where keeping a blog can feel counterproductive. Must I work through the 70+ posts on H818 in order to write the EMA? Apparently so.

I may try to tackle it as a 12 minute presentation - could I get up and talk it through with an audience unfamiliar with the module ?

 

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My OU Years

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 24 Feb 2014, 17:21

Fig.1 Odd that, 12 years and I've gained hair, glasses and a tie.

In February 2001 I began an OU module on Open & Distance Learning - last year I graduated with the Masters in Open & Distance Education (MAODE). Since then I've taken a couple more MAODE modules to stay up to date. Impossible given that any MAODE module is out of date before it goes live?

In 2001 distance learning looked like this:

Fig.2. Some of the books that came in my OU 'Box' at the start of the module

The next direction has to be horizontally into the Open University (again), or vertically towards a PhD. Or both? Or neither.

Meanwhile, I sincerely recommend that anyone with any interest in the way education is going to follow the BBC tonight. 

BBC Radio 4 8.00pm

The Classroom of the Future

Is it an OU co-production? These days these things usually are.

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Using Kolb's experiential learning cycle to assess a creative workshop I gave in 2012 as part of the long gone, though brilliant module 'Creativity, Innovation and Change'

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 4 May 2014, 09:17

 

Fig. 1. Kolb’s ‘Experiential Learning Cycle’ reversioned.

I did something …

This is my take on Kolb’s ‘Experiential Learning Cycle’ which I will use to explore what I ‘did’. I ran a creative problem solving workshop. The motivation for attendees was to pick up some creative problem solving techniques, to solve a problem we had with using social media and to do some team building. The objective for me was to crack this problem and to introduce a more creative and collaborative approach to problem solving.

Fig. 2. Coach to Olympians running a workshop - part class, part ‘pool side’

I couldn’t help but draw on experience as a Club Swimming Coach planning programmes of swimming for a squad swimmers and as the ‘workforce development’ running training programmes for our club’s teachers and coaches. Planning and preparation when you are putting athletes in the pool several times a week over months is vital. On a smaller scale this workshop required a schedule, to the minute, with some contingency, allowing you to build in flexibility for both content and timings.

 

Fig. 3. Planned to the minute - my creative problem solving workshop

The plan was for five to six creative problem solving techniques to be used, top and tailed by, using terms from swimming, a ‘warm up’ and a ‘warm down’. The modus operandi of the Residential School had been to introduce, experience and play with as many creative problem solving techniques as possible.

Fig. 4. As a prop, food and aid memoir a bunch of bananas has multiple uses

‘Bunch of Bananas’ is a creative problem solving technique that suggests that you include in the group a ‘plant’ - a person over whom other’s will slip, like the proverbial banana. My take on this was to introduce two outsiders - a Russian academic who would bring a different take on things and the a mathematician and senior programmer.

Fig. 5. ‘Mother-in-law, Samurai, Tiger’ is a great warm up.

We did a warm up called  ‘Mother-in-law, Samurai, Tiger’. This is the team equivalent of ‘Paper, Scissors, Stone’ where two teams face each other and on the count of three, having agreed what their response would as a team, they either 'Tut-tut’ and wag their finger like a mother-in-law, 'growl' and get their claws out like a Tiger, or shout 'ha!' while posing like a Samurai warrior brandishing his sword. This is the ‘warm down’ to stick with the swimming coaching metaphor was to have participants get into the ‘streamlined’ position that swimmers adopt - essentially a stretching exercise.

Fig. 6. Human Sculpture and Timeline are useful ways to have people look at and feel a problem in a different way and from a different angle.

In between we did a mixture of physical and mental activities, including Human Sculpture where one person becomes the sculptor and uses everyone else to form a tableau or sculpture that expresses their talk on the problem. Another was timeline where you imagine looking at the problem from the perspective of the past and future.

Now, stand back  …

Standing back I’d say that running a workshop for colleagues has advantages and disadvantages. How would a director or line manager feel about their views being exposed like this. On the other hand if well managed it becomes a team building exercise too.

The challenge is to know what risks to take and how to build in flexibility, not just in timing, but in the kind of activities. This requires that despite the plan you are alert to signals that suggest an activity should be developed or dropped. Workshops and seminars I take have a common element - there is ‘hands on’ activity.The goal is that at the end of the session people feel confident that they could do these things themselves. I’m less comfortable about teaching where the communication is one way - me talking and them taking notes. I value encouraging self-discover and people being on their feet, interacting and having fun.

The workshop was experiential

It was collaborative and iterative, it was problem-based learning that used communication skills.

How did you feel about that ?  

Fig. 7. How we like to be ‘in the flow’ rather either bored or stressed from being too challenged. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1975) Mental state in terms of challenge level and skill level.

I felt ‘in the flow’ for most of the time, suitably challenged and never bored. Though anxious and surprised when a colleague gave me a drubbing the day after feeling that they had been tricked into attending. This came as a surprise, the other surprise was how away from their desk and computers the apparently introverted could become so animated and responsive.

I felt like a party planner. I was hosting an event. The atmosphere of controlled enthusiasm would be down to me. I would be, to use a French expression, the ‘animateur’ or ‘realisateur’ - the one who would make this happen and bring it to life.

Fig. 8. For all the playful activities, we are still reliant on Post It Notes and flip charts

Now what ?

On this occasion we delivered a couple of distinct responses to the problem. People reflected on the experienced and felt it was both enjoyable and of practical value. The request was not that others would host such an exercise, but that I would do more. I was subsequently booked to run a few more workshops on specific topics with different groups in the faculty. The question that we couldn’t resolve was whether were  a ‘creative organisation’ ? My own conclusion being that we quite palpably were not.

REFERENCE

Ackoff, R.L. (1979) The Art of Problem-Solving, New York: Wiley

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1975). Beyond Boredom and Anxiety: Experiencing Flow in Work and Play, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. ISBN 0-87589-261-2

Experiential learning theory. (Available from http://www2.glos.ac.uk/gdn/gibbs/ch2.htm. Accessed 22FEB14)

Gundy, A.B. (1988) Techniques of Structured Problem Solving, 2nd ed, Van Norstrand Reinhold. Te hniques 4.01, 4.06, 4.57

Henry, J and the course team (2006, 2010) 'Creativity, Cognition and Development" Book 1 B822 Creativity, Innovation and Change.

Henry, J (2010) ‘Set Breakers’ Henry (P. 96)

Kolb, D.A. 1984 Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

McCaskey, M.B. (1988) ‘The challenge of managing ambiguity’, in Pondy, L.R, Boland, R.J and Thomas, H (eds) Managing Ambiguity and Change, new York, pp 2-11

Henry, J & Martin J (2010) Book 2 Managing Problems Creatively

Schon, A.A. (1983) The Reflective Practioner: How Professionals think in Action, London: Temple Smith

Tassoul, M, & Buijs, J ( 2007, )'Clustering: An Essential Step from Diverging to Converging', Creativity & Innovation Management, 16, 1, pp. 16-26, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 22 February 2014.

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I did something once ...

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My take on Kolb's Learning Cycle. (Kolb, 1994)

What do you think? How would you interpret this?

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I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 25 Feb 2014, 13:32

Don't be fooled into thinking that when expected to deliver a five minute presentation that it will take less time to write than a ten minute presentation - it won't.

In fact, the harder assignment would be to expect a one minute presentation.

I always thought that it was Jonathan Swift who apologised to a recipient of one of his very long letters that he hadn't had time to write a shorter one. Did he? A Google search gives you Blaise Pascal

Je n'ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.

 

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Eeek! I'm about to go live in an OU Live Conference

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Feb 2014, 18:40

I'm 'next door' in a group of 20+ using OULive for a conference - my turn to speak in an hour. Eeeek. Four years online with the OU and I have to say this is proving to be thrilling and engaging ... and the effort everyone puts in clearly the result of a lot of hard work.

We are in a break, sort of, so I'm not doing the equivalent of sitting in the back row texting my mates.

A good deal of the EMA will be to reflect on this experience, rather than the 'artefact' we deliver tonight. It has very much a case that my fellow students have helped me to set all kinds of parameters while introducing me to new platforms and supporting my output.

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Curiosity Satisfied

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 24 Feb 2014, 14:57

It amazes me how when reading something and pointed to a footnote or reference that if I choose to do so a few clicks and the reference is before my eyes. Reading up on the First World War there are books from 1914-18 that are freely available in digital form - the additional insight is when you glance at such a reference is to wonder why an author chose that sentence or paragraph, often I find there is something far more interesting being said.

All of this has me reflecting on 'interpretation' and how increasingly, because we can, we should, because we can, check up on authors - certainly take them off their academic pedestals as their word is never absolute, is inevitably biased - and sometimes they get it wrong.

There are two kinds of connectedness here:

1) with references the author has used - how selected, why they thought them of relevance or interest (and the authority and credibility of these references)

2) with fellow readers - which, if you want a response, I increasingly find in Amazon of all places. There are always a few people who have picked  through the text, who are willing and able to other a response or to sleuth it out with you.

How does this change things?

The Web puts at anyone's fingertips resources that until recently were the exclusive domain of university libraries - the older, wealthier universities having the richest pickings and broadest range of references. To 'look something up' as we now do in a few moments could take a couple of days. 'Learning at the speed of need' is a phrase I like, used in the context of applied learning in business, but just as apt here.

As a consequence, earlier in their careers, students will have a broader and stronger, personal perspective. And as a consequence there will be more people 'out there' to join an informed discussion. And as a consequence more new ideas will come to fruition sooner and faster. And as a consequence, collectively, or common understanding will grow and develop faster than before.

 

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Leveraging mobile technologies and Web 2.0 tools to engage those with an interest in the centenary of the First World War in the stories of the people of the era using strategically placed Quick Response codes.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Feb 2014, 16:56

If you are doing a Masters of Open and Distance Education Module (MAODE) you should be aware of an interested in the conference that is currently running in CloudWorks and OULive.

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Fig. 1. Lewes War Memorial, East Sussex, England     J F Vernon (2011)

The problem with war memorials is that those named on them risk becoming forgotten words on a list.

By using the Web we can find out who these people named on the war memorials were and where they lived; we can try to put a face to the name and a story to the name  … and then we can share what we find.

There are more than 54,000 war memorials in Great Britain, most of these put up after the First World War. There is barely a community without one. Significant interest already exists, especially as we approach the centenary of the First World War making this initiative a potentially easy one to add to what is already taking place. 

 

Fig. 2. British Legion Poppy featuring a Quick Response Code

In his 2011 book ‘The Digital Scholar’ Martin Weller  shares the thoughts of Brian Lamb to describe those technologies that ‘lend themselves to … the networked and open approach’ as ‘fast, cheap and out of control’. It was with this in mind, taking an interest in the centenary of the First World War and obsession with war memorials that I started to think about using Quick Response codes as a personalised entry point to the Web that anyone could generate in order to share a story about someone who served in the conflict, and to do so both online and on the street. Quick Response codes are fast, they are free and their potential in learning has yet to be realised.

Worn in this way, featured in the center of your commemoration Poppy, you can share directly with others the person whose life you wish to remember, as well as directing people to the content online and inviting them to ‘adopt’ a name from a war memorial themselves. Though exploiting the Web, this is designed as a ‘blended’ experience that uses face-to-face, community and classroom experiences, as well as taking people outside to monuments, buildings, streets and battlefields.

 

    Esponsorvik (2014 )

Fig. 3. Toyota Quick Response Code and Using a TV remote control Espensorvik. Flickr

‘QR codes’ are a product of the car manufacturing industry. Faced with increasingly complex components, Denso, a supplier to Toyota, came up with what is a 2 dimensional bar code in the 1990s (Denso, 2010). Made free of patent, and using free software anyone can now generate their own unique QR code. You can even print them out on standardised sticky label stationery.

Fig. 4. Google Search ‘Quick Response Codes Education Images’ (2014)

There are a myriad of uses for QR codes, from embedding information that is read and stored by the device to a quick link to rich content online. Barrett, 2012). The interest here is to use QR codes to link to learning resources, in mobile, or ‘m-learning’ contexts in particular and for users to both read and write such context. I liken QR codes to using your phone as a remote control to click to a TV channel (Fig 3) . You point a smartphone, or tablet at the QR code to read it and go instantly, pretty much, to a web page.

Their use in education in the last decade has been limited. ‘Refereed (sic) papers are few’ (Gradel & Edson, 2012), but between these and other published reports, suggestions can be made regarding their strengths or weaknesses.

If QR codes are to be used successfully then champions need to be identified to take up the cause in schools, colleges and local associations. Whilst QR codes use the power of the Web to connect people to rich content, that they may create themselves, a good deal of thoughtful planning will be necessary ‘in the classroom’, not just explaining how to make use of QR codes, but also working them in, where appropriate to current learning schedules where QR codes used in this way will meet clear learning objectives. Support online could be provided in a short eLearning module. What has been shown repeatedly, in museums and ‘out in the field’, is that simply ‘put out there’ the QR codes are ignored (Gradel & Edson, 2012). An innovation such as this requires considerable promotion and support.  This makes the idea of wearing your own QR code on a Commemoration Poppy all the more appealing, as each person becomes an ambassador on the ground, for that nugget of information, especially if they are responsible for creating and hosting that content. The opportunity exists, therefore, mentored and guided by educators, with support online, for schools, colleges and associations to engage people in bringing the stories of those named on our war memorials alive. In this way a deeper and more meaningful connection is made with the past and our relationship to it.

Copyright © 2010, The New York Times Company. Photography by Jim Wilson

Fig. 5. Handheld curator:  IPod Touches and visitors at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. (The New York Times)

According to the 2009 Horizon report (Horizon, 2009) the following would be of growing significance in teaching: mobile devices, clouding computing and the personal web. As an innovative approach, QR codes exploit all three of these developments.

Use of QR codes in learning however has had mixed results. Simply putting a QR code in front of a museum artifact, as they’ve done at the Museum of London and did at the Design Museum does not work (Vernon, 2013)  – there is plenty already, there is little to attract or promote their use, not everyone has a smartphone or tablet of course and the technology is often not robust – ‘out of use’ signs are familiar. Outdoors QR codes added to signs in the South Downs National Park, for example, barely received a view a day during a three month trial and in some instances there was no signal at all (Kerry-Bedel 2011; South Downs, 2012).

Where QR codes have been successful is in targeted learning experiences in schools (Tucker, 2011; Gradel & Edson, 2012), where the affordances of the QR code have been exploited to form part of an engaging, constructive and collective learning experience. To be effective this initiative with war memorials requires galvanising people to take part in a joint exercise – easier with a class in school or college, less easy with the general public unless it is through a national, regional or local community association or interest group.

Examples where QR codes work include where participants are ‘equipped’, and where they can take an active role, such as in ‘on the spot’ surveys or quizzes, where they are prompted into cooperative learning and where timely ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ are given. (Awano, 2007: Information Standards Committee 2008; So 2008; Robinson, 2010; Hicks & Sinkinson, 2011; Ryerson Library & Archives, 2012.)

K Lepi (2012)Copyright 2013 © Edudemic All rights reserved

Fig 6 . A Simple Guide to Four Complex  Learning Theories. Lepi (2012)

The theory behind the idea of using QR codes in a mobile and open way, is that in the digital age ‘connectivism’ is the ‘modus operandi’. In this diagram (Fig. 5)  from Edudemic (Edudemic 2012) traditional and digital theories are concerned. All are relevant, each has its place, with the digital environment offering new and additional approaches to learning.

Whilst traditional learning methods have their role in schools, lecture halls and with mature students too, the complete learning package requires a level and quality of interaction and connectedness that can only be achieved on the Web and be effective where the body of learners is large and their approach is open and shared so that knowledge acquisition comes through the challenges and rewards of such intercourse. Connections won’t occur however unless they are nurtured. By way of example, wishing to support and promote the combat memoirs of my late grandfather John Arthur Wilson MM (Vernon, 2012) a number of organisations will be approached up and down the UK in relation to his experiences in the Durham Light Infantry, Machine Gun Corps and Royal Air Force. The Web will both help identify, forge and maintain and develop first and subsequent connections in what would hopefully be, to be effective, a two way, shared, open and reciprocal relationship. The beauty of having content  already online is that others can quickly view it and images, text and sound files, even video, adjusted to suit different audiences, or uses - and used freely where appropriate copyright permissions are given.

JFVernon 2010 from statistics from Jakob Nielsen (1999)

Fig 7 . Creators, commentators and readers - how use of the Web stacks up. Vernon (2010) after Nielsen (1999)

This degree of connectedness does not come naturally. Just as there can be no expectation that people will use a QR code because it is there – they won’t. With an innovative approach such as this promotion is crucial. Significant time, thought and effort need to be put into letting people know what is taking place and supporting their participation.

Only a fraction of a population are naturally inclined to generate content.

Jakob Nielsen (1999) would suggest that as few as 1% create content (Fig. 6). If content is therefore to be created by participants then very large numbers need to be made aware of the initiative. Online, openness helps when it is massive. Participation is improved where it is supported and moderated. Creators, commentators and readers each have a role to play.

The balance needs to be found between the qualities of a tool that is fast and cheap and where out of control means that something isn’t used in a way to benefit a formal learning requirement. On the one hand those who want to generate content can be encouraged to do so, while in a formal setting the intention would that everyone generates content of some form in order to receive feedback and assessment.

 

 

J F Vernon (2011) 

Fig 8. The Newcastle War Memorial by Sir William Goscombe John RA

The potential weakness of using QR codes are the requirement for participants to have a suitable device, say a smartphone or tablet and the possible communication fees when connecting away from a free wi-fi source – which is likely to be the case at a war memorial (Gradel & Edson, 2012). Reading from and using a smartphone or tablet may also present accessibility issues, from the need for dexterity and reading content that isn’t offered in alternative forms, such as text sizes and background or audio alternatives.

There are many examples where local councils feel a war memorial or building is so important that they have invested in information placards on site (Fig. 7). As commemoration of those who served and died in the First World War is of local and national interest funding is potentially available to help support initiatives such as these through the Heritage Lottery Fund, while organisations such as the Western Front Association have funding for branch activities too.

If permission is required for personalisation of a British Legion poppy using a QR code, then alternatives may be required, from working with other suitable groups such as the Imperial War Museum or Western Front Association to putting the QR code on a badge instead. Where used in the field it is likely that a teacher would put out sets of QR coded markers in advance and collect them afterwards. Where a photograph in a town featuring before and after views permission may also be required if any kind of QR coded plaque or poster is to be put up. Other inventive ways to use a QR code would be to attach them to an obstacle course like trench experience where each code triggers elements of a task, sound effects or narrative in keeping with the setting.  By way of example, at the ‘In Flanders Museum’ in Ypres a number of exhibits require the visitor to duck, crawl or crane their neck before supporting audio or lighting is triggered by a Near Field code in a bracelet.

  J F Vernon (1989-2014)

Fig. 9. The memoir of a Machine Gunner and RFC Fighter Pilot. ‘That’s Nothing Compared to Passchendaele’

In his 2011 book ‘The Digital Scholar’ Martin Weller shares the ideas of Robert Capps (2009) who coined the term ‘the good enough revolution’ – in relation to creating and sharing content in an open culture. This precludes being prescriptive or from expecting perfection. Whilst output on the First World War from the BBC, the Imperial War Museum or the Open University should understandably attain a certain professional standard, the kind of creation required of those research names on war memorials should take inspiration from that is more than just ‘good enough, from ‘pinning’ names from a war memorial to a home address, to ‘pinning’ submitted World War One photographs to Google maps over former battlefields, as well as numerous inventive YouTube videos and memoirs presented as blogs.

REFERENCE

Awano, Y (2007). Brief pictorial description of new mobile technologies used in cultural institutions in Japan. The Journal of Museum Education, 32(1), 17-25 Barrett, T (2012). 50 Interesting ways to use QR codes to support learning. (Last accessed 6th Feb 2014  https://docs.google.com/present/edit?id=0AclS3lrlFkCIZGhuMnZjdjVfNzY1aHNkdzV4Y3I&hl=en_GB&authkey=COX05IsF

Denso (2010a). QR Code Standardization. (Retrieved 6th Feb 2014, from http://www.denso-wave.com/qrcode/qrstandard-e.html ) Edudemic. Traditional Learning Theories. (Accessed 19th April 2013) http://edudemic.com/2012/12/a-simple-guide-to-4-complex-learning-theories/

Gradel, K., & Edson, A. J. (2012). Higher ed QR code resource guide.

Hicks, A., & Sinkinson, C. (2011). Situated questions and answers: Responding to library users with QR codes. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 51(1), 60–69.

Horizon Report 2009 (2009) Educause (Accessed 14th Feb 2014 http://www.educause.edu/library/resources/2009-horizon-report )

Information Standards Committee (2008) Section 3: QR code, Synthesis Journal. (From http://www.itsc.org.sg/pdf/synthesis08/Three_QR_Code.pdf )

Kerry-Bedel, A (2011) Smartphone technology – the future of heritage interpretation: Its in conservation (Accessed 14th February 2014 http://www.kbstconsulting.co.uk/QR/images/ITIC.pdf )

Lepi, K (2012) A Simple Guide To 4 Complex Learning Theories. Edudemic eMagazine 24th December 2012. (Accessed 14th February 2014. http://www.edudemic.com/a-simple-guide-to-4-complex-learning-theories/ )

New York Times. The Best Tour Guide May Be in Your Purse. Article by Keith Schneider. 18 March 2010. Copyright © 2010, The New York Times Company http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/18/arts/artsspecial/18SMART.html

Nielsen, J (1999) Web Usability Robinson, K. (2010). Mobile phones and libraries: Experimenting with the technology. ALISS Quarterly, 5(3), 21–22 Ryerson University Library & Archives (2012). QR codes. Retrieved 6th Feb 2014, from http://www.ryerson.ca/library/qr/. So, S. (2008). A Study on the Acceptance of Mobile Phones for Teaching and Learning with a group of Pre-service teachers in Hong Kong. Journal of Educational Technology Development and Exchange, 1(1), 81-92. South Downs (2012)  Use of QR Codes (Accessed 14 Feb 2014 http://southdownsforum.ning.com/forum/topics/signposting-and-qr-codes ) Tucker, A. (2011). What are those checkerboard things? How QR codes can enrich student projects. Tech Directions, 71(4), 14-16.

Vernon J.F. (2012) (Blog Post)  (Accessed 14th February 2014 http://machineguncorps.com/jack-wilson-mm/ )

Vernon, J.F. (2013) (Blog Post) Mobile learning at the Museum of London: QR codes and NFCs (Accessed 14th February 2014) http://mymindbursts.com/2013/11/10/molqr1/

Weller, M (2011) The Digital Scholar: How Technology is Transforming Scholarly Practice. 5% Loc 239 of 4873  

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Blogging here for four years

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 6 Feb 2014, 08:26

A year ago OU Computer Services undid my hard work and the tagging of some 2000 posts here was lost - all attempts to get an explanation, or apology or a fix have failed. This is what I find the OU can do - silence when it suits them. No one will answer because to apologise would be to admit fault. Having invested so much time in what is a record, learning journal and eportfolio it is galling. At least I was well down the line of cutting and pasting it all into an external blog, but this still does not change the fact that I was using the blog to aggregate themes and ideas which they destroyed. A blog that we are encouraged to use and we have access to for three further years beyond graduation. I am a student first, but also a customer who had no forked out £x,000 to be here. If I press hard enough I will get some legalease that will point out that the OU can do as they please.

So much for the power of the digital - I should have hand written it all into notebooks.

Four years ago I decided to complete a learning journey I started in 2001 - redundancy and the loss of a parent tripped me up that time. Over the last four years I have lost a second parent, a mother in law and changed jobs twice, though I am yet to fulfil the promise that I thought eLearning offered. There is no doubt that graduating in 2003 rather than 2013 would have made me stand out whereas now I am just one of many. Then to have the MAODE still requires a subject specialism ...

There is a risk that my being here could continue as MSc and PhD look attractive as does Higher Education rather than L&D. I will blog, on my terms, in WordPress and keep a presence here as long as I am doing an OU module - which currently stretches to my seventh.

Something I never contemplated and will challenge me for another five months is to find myself a masters student of three universities - Open, Birmingham and Brookes. You could say that I have caught this learning bug, or am reverting to type - an insatiable curiosity that no book or TV programme alone can satisfy. There is an urge to do a further MA in Environmental Change when an MA in First World War studies ends in 2015. To what end? The intention has always been to apply my learning rather than to wallow in it, for the experience to be a catalyst for output.

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Too busy to blog?

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Too busy to reflect or to remember? Your brain is like Gouda - a blog can fill in some of the holes. 

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Time and effort

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 25 Feb 2014, 13:06

The more I study at masters level and beyond what eLearning has to offer, the more I conclude that whatever the platform the learner needs to put in time, effort and engagement. All the eLearning can do is to provide content of the highest relevance and quality in a timely, cost effective, relevant and memorable fashion. Does it motivate? Does it engage? Is its effectiveness measurable? Do they change behaviours? Do they remember or at least have a response to the content?

Learning online it helps to have such a seamless, intuitive and frequently refreshed learning platform with the Open University. 

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Vehicles for learning or vehicles for assessment?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 13 Dec 2013, 07:44

An essay, and therefore all assignments should be for the purposes of learning. To help the tutor, even your peers, to see where your thinking has reached and add to and correct as necessary. Assessment should be the end of module dissertation or written exam.

What do you think?

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Blogging as an acdemic and scholarly acitivty

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 25 Feb 2014, 13:00

What's going on in there? How do bloggers react, respond and coalesce?

Anjewierden, A. (2006) Understanding Weblog Communities Through Digital Traces: A Framework, a Tool and an Example.

My own interest was sparked by an article in the Washington Post on Ellen Levy who had spent 1998 keeping a journal and putting it online.

Druckerman, P (1999) Ellen Levy Has Got The Write Project For the Internet Age --- It's a Year of Scribbling Down Almost Everything; Ah, Yes, It Was a Raisin Bagel

This ‘user generated content’ has value to its author and the community that reads it. This is a key outcome of open, collaborative and connected learning, where the blogger is a ‘produser’.

Efimova, Lilia (2008) Bloggers and 'produsers'

Having blogged consistently since this period it is interesting to understand that as it encroached upon student and academic practice, as it was impinging on journalism, that it was considered disruptive.

Fiedler, S. (2004) Introducing disruptive technologies for learning: Personal Webpublishing and Weblogs, Part I

While my passion felt like a niche practice it has been of value to see blogging recognised.

Kaiser, S. (2007) Weblog-technology as a trigger to elicit passion for knowledge 

Why MAODE students blog (Kerewella et al, 2009) depends on their perceptions of, and for:

  • an audience
  • community
  • the utility of and need for comments
  • presentational style of the blog content
  • overarching factors related to the technological context
  • the pedagogical context of the course 

Kerawalla, L, Minocha, S, Kirkup, G, & Conole, G  (2009) An empirically grounded framework to guide blogging in higher education

Knowing the practice to be of value personally as part of a number of specialist groups made research on blogs as wikis, Sauer (2005) or as e-portfolios of interest.

Sauer, Igor M. (2005) “ Blogs” and“ Wikis” Are Valuable Software Tools for Communication Within Research Groups

As Smolkin (2007) points out it is about creating or finding and then sharing your niche - in this case the niche being personal stories of participants, witnesses and combatants in the First World War.

Smolkin, Rachel (2007) Finding a Niche. (cover story)

This is a key outcome of open, collaborative and connected learning, where the blogger is a ‘produser’. Efimova (2008) It has taken over a decade, but blogging is now considered to be a valid, scholarl acitivity. Weller (2012).

Weller, Martin (2012) The virtues of blogging as scholarly activity

 Bishop, D. (2013) ‘Blogging as post-publication peer review: reasonable or unfair?’ LSE Impact of Social Sciences blog. 21 March.

Available at:http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/

impactofsocialsciences/ 2013/ 04/ 15/ blogging-as-post-publication-peer-review-reasonable-or-unfair/

 

 

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