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OLDs MOOC 2013 WK5 Activity 1.2 Design-Based Research:A Decade of Progress in Education Research

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 22 Oct 2014, 14:06

Skim through the article Design-Based Research:A Decade of Progress in Education Research? by Anderson and Shattuck, noting in particular the section on iterative design

Bridging the chasm between design and execution

I found this article on design based research not only fascinating, but oddly synchronous with the MAODE (Master of Arts: Open and Distance Education) module I am currently doing - H809 Practice based research in educational technology - as my interest is in how we construct learning programmes for use through our various Internet connected devices.

‘DBR is a methodology designed by and for educators that seeks to increase the impact, transfer, and translation of education research into improved practice’. (Anderson and Shattuck, 2012. p. 16)

We are currently stripping down a couple of papers.

I can see that I will automate this process, do a review of who, what, when, why a paper is written. Then check as a skim read for other signs that make it credible for my interests (or creditable at all).

  • Being Situated in a Real Educational Context
  • Focusing on the Design and Testing of a Significant Intervention
  • Involving multiple iterations
  • Involving a Collaborative Partnership Between Researchers and Practitioners
  • Evolution of Design principles

In action research, the educator is both researcher and teacher
(Kuhn & Quigley, 1997).

This becomes inevitable. And is played out in just about anything we do if we think either that there is a problem with it or that it can be improved and we want to improve it. On the one hand as player and participant we are in the best position to understand what is going on, on the other we may be so adapted to certain behaviours and to the familiarity of a situation that we cannot see it with either fresh eyes or the eyes of an objective observer. These are techniques and attitudes that can be taught. 

Mingfong, Yam San, and Ek Ming (2010) identified four design characteristics that they suggest must be aligned to create effective interventions. These are:

  1. Frameworks for learning,
  2. The affordances of the chosen instructional tools,
  3. Domain knowledge presentation,
  4. Contextual limitations

(Mingfong et al 1020 p. 470).

Design practice—whether in the manufacture of cars or of fashions—usually evolves through the creation and testing of prototypes, iterative refinement, and continuous evolution of the design, as it is tested in authentic practice. (Anderson and Shattuck, 2012. p. 17)

“Research through mistakes.”  (Anderson and Shattuck, 2012. p. 17)

I came across this in the OU MBA module B822 'creativity, innovation and change' - where mistakes are recognised as a test and a way forward, rather than a barrier to change or innovation.

Grayson Perry - is one of several artists and creatives who talk positively of mistakes. It's how we learn.

Martin Sorrell - on mistakes in business

There are many others - a search 'mistakes' in this blog will find more.

Further Reading

Journal of the Learning Sciences, vol. 13, no. 1; Educational Researcher, vol. 32, no. 1; and
Educational Psychologist, vol. 39, no. 4.


Anderson, T, & Shattuck, J 2012, 'Design-Based Research:A Decade of Progress in Education Research?', Educational Researcher, 1, p. 16, JSTOR Arts & Sciences IV, EBSCOhost, viewed 8 February 2013.

Mingfong, J., Yam San, C., & Ek Ming, T. (2010). Unpacking the design process in design-based research. In Proceedings opedagogy

Kuhn, G., & Quigley, A. (1997). Understanding and using action research in practice settings. In A. Quigley & G. Kuhne (Eds.), Creating practical knowledge through action research (pp. 23–40). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Looi, C.-K., Chen, W. the 9th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (Vol. 2). International Society of the Learning Sciences.

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Web 1.0, Web 2.0, Web 3.0

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 18 Mar 2013, 06:47


Fig. 1. Way is will be ...

  • Way was
  • Way is
  • Way will be ...

Web 1.0 Top down and traditional

Web 2.0 Democratization of information - anyone can publish

Web 30 The data takes over - construction and reconstructing itself to form unique and original combinations, even coming up with new ideas?

This is doodled on the back of a handout from the Web Science Docotoral Training Centre, University of Southampton where I had spent the afternoon. Serendipty really - the long train journey in and back and the iPad had run out of juice obling me to do some reading. In any case, pen on paper is often the best place to express thoughts, to 'get them out there' in a skamp or draft form.

This is how Dion Hinchcliffe expresses it:


With a link to hundreds of his diagrams


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I had a dream ... and I blame the Open University

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 18 Nov 2013, 15:06

Fig. 1. A mash-up in Picasa of a 3D laser generated image generated at the Design Museum during their 'Digital Crystal' exhibition.

The image exists and is transformed by the presence of the observer in front of a Kinex device making this a one-off and an expression or interpretation of that exact moment.

'Working with dreams' and 'Keeping a dream journal' are taught creative problem solving techniques at the Open University Business School. I did B822 'Creativity, Innovation and Change' in 2012 (Henry et al 2010). I have the problem solving toolkit. I even got a hardback copy of VanGundy's book on creative problem solving.

Using your unconscious isn't difficult. Just go to bed early with a 'work' related book and be prepared to write it down when you stir.

I woke soon after 4.00am.

I'd nodded off between 9.30 and 11.30 so feel I've had my sleep.

Virtual bodies for first year medical students to work on, an automated mash-up of your 'lifelog' to stimulate new thinking and the traditional class, lecture and university as a hub for millions - for every student you have in a lecture hall you have 1000 online.

Making it happen is another matter.

I'm writing letters and with far greater consideration working on a topic or too for research.

"Nights through dreams tell the myths forgotten by the day." — C.G. Jung (Memories, Dreams, Reflections)

How to work with a dream or metaphorical image:

  • Enter the dream
  • Study the dream
  • Become the images
  • Integrate the viewpoints
  • Rework the dream

Appreciating, reflecting, looking forward and emerging


Glouberman, D. (1989) Life Choices and Life Changes Through Imagework, London, Unwin, pp. 232-6

Henry, J., Mayle, D., Bell, R., Carlisle, Y. Managing Problems Creatively (3rd edn) 2010. The Open University.

Isaacson, W. (2011) Steve Jobs. Little Brown.

VanGundy, A.B. (1988) Techniques of structured problem solving (2nd edn), New York: Van Nostran Reinhold.



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Lonely Little Cloudworks

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 22 Oct 2014, 11:29

Lonely Little Clouds

There are all kinds of ways to share your learning online.

Have you tried Cloudworks?

The group I've been wokring in have dubbed them 'lonely little clouds'.

They are.

I takes me a while to spot my own, let alone find anyone else or specific group activity. Navigation is a nightmare. Instead of being tethered to the ground like a kit, every time you enter Cloudworks it is like trying to get a helium filled party baloon to go in a specific direction by blowing on it.

Serendipty built in.

There's no sign in page. To login in I click through pages until something I want to do requires a sign in.


Blog posts can be the same.

Finding the place, space, time and group where there will be some co-ordinated as well as vicarious engagement is not so easy. Getting it to work is a science not an art.

I had experience of listServ in 2001 on the original Masters in Open and Distance Learning.

I rather think it was a bit like this platform. It worked because you could respond in turn.

I also find the right forums in Linkedin work where there are enough people contributing to the degree that an asynchronous conversation becomes quasi synchronous.

There are ways and habits and even an acquired culture of behaviours with all of these.

The most valuable insights I have gained comes from being part of this Open University Student Blogging Platform.

You have a basic blog, but every post from all students is posted in a strict chronology just like the old, threaded ListServ. One hand on top of the other.

Like cards being dealt from a pack.

Your voice gets its chance. Never mind if it isn't picked up. It has its life in your blog too.

It's as if it is getting two chances of being spotted. A third would be to 'stack' an entry in a subject specifc platform too. i.e. common categories creating another distinct list.

This means that anyone who is active has a chance of being read.

There's no obligation. But it impies when you post publically that you are part of a collective enterprise rather than a diarist writing on your space, strictly on your terms.

And it doesn't offer bells and whistles.

Nor should it. This platform offers a way in for the novice. In fact, I recall how I struggled three years ago when I first joined in. Why couldn't it be like WordPress or Blogger or LiveJournal? I'm glad that it isn't, glad that there is a sense of continuity with bulletin boards and the ListServe.

It works.

Both from my own modules and especially the eclectic mix of everyone else here, I have been introduced to a wonderful myriad of possibilities, ideas and perspectives.

There's a very tricky balance that decides if one means of communicating catches on, or even works with a particular group.

I am going to throw myself at the OLDs MOOC afain this afternoon and see if I can see where my head should be.



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H809 WK1 DAY 2 Nerves

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 3 Feb 2013, 17:18


Fig. 1. Lava Lamps - and how we learn - on a rising thermal and in coloured, slimy blobs ...

There is a physiological response to the first moments of a new module - I am nervous. This is like meeting the cast for a student play for the first read through. Intrepidation and expectation. As ever, I know no one, not the tutor or fellow students, though many of us have surely crossed paths on previous MAODE modules. We certainly have all of that in common so will have a set of themes and authors, favourite moments and gripes to share.

Visually I see this as my 'Lava Lamp' year!

The blob is starting to stretch and will at some stage take me away from the Master's Degree - now complete - and onwards either returning to learning and development in the multinational / government department arena of my past, or into research.


Fig. 2. Lava lamp inspired quilt - illustrates this idea of the thermal. Is this how we learn? It's how I visualise it.

If you want the wordy, academic response then read Kolb.


Fig. 3. How I see learning occuring - as expressed during H808 - The e-learning professional

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - all you need in the learning mix

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 1 Feb 2013, 09:03


I love the beauty of  Jenga. Like Google, it's simple and it works.

Simplicity has a purity about it. Don't knock it. Behind its functionality and its look and feel there will be some hard thinking.

'Keep it simple, stupid'. (K.I.S.S) may be a training cliche but there is considerable truth in it.

I've now had three years here at the OU and here on this Student Blog platform (short of five days, first post 6th Feb 2010).

I've been working on my ideas regarding learning and e-learning design in particular Courtesy of THE OU hosted OLDs MOOC 2013 (Online Learning Design - Massive Open Online Course)

I'm experiencing what feels like undertaking an 8 week written examination - the contents of my brain are being pushed through the cookie cutter.

And out comes this:

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

(Of course I had shut down for the gadgets for the day and was brushing my teeth when this came to me).


The Good

Learning events or activities, moments that make the participant smile, think, reflect, nod in agreement, understand, be informed and generally feel good about the world and this particular learning experience. Hit them with some of this, as the say so succinctly across the Atlantic - at the 'get go'.


The Bad

The effort required and built into the learning. OK, we want them to love this too, and you can if you're 'in the flow', have done your work, have wrestled with what you didn't understand, asked for help, listen to fellow students, gone out of your way to do extra reading and research until you have it, one way or another.

There needs to be assessment.

An assignment is a soft assessment to me - though like everyone I have terrible days when the thing just slips through my fingers like a snowball on the beach. A dissertation or end of module assignment is tougher, but tough and 'bad' in a certain way - like commitment to a triathlon. And a good analogy as working on and developing three issues at 2,000 words a pop is about right. And you won't get far if you leave training to the week before. It's a slow burn.

The 'bad' has to be the written examination.

They have to be hated and feared, and like learning lines for that school play, you have to get it right on the night (or day). And what do you do if you act? You have good lines to learn, you learn and rehearse your lines and you practice, and do a test run or two. The curtains going up is the equivalent of your turning the examination paper over. I feel the fear from a year ago - April 2012. I hadn't sat a written exam in 30 years. All my undergraduate and school-boy fears came back. I used rusty techniques that had last seen service during my first degree.

Bad is good. You want to do everything not to feel like you are naked on stage - a dream we all have when faced with such an 'exposing' test?


The Ugly

Shock 'em. Not scare the witless. Have up your sleeve some smart stuff. Whether an idea or the technology offer a creepy and certainly memorable surprise.

Boring a student into making a fact or issue stick is like throwing mud at a brick wall - it'll stick, it'll coagulate and build up, but is easily washed away in a shower and destroyed in a storm.

Use storytelling techniques perhaps, better still, follow the pattern of a ghost story.

Scare them? I'm back on fear I guess.

We humans are fearful of many things and will go out of our way to avoid, run away or confront our fears. As I said, the idea here isn't to lose your students, but to empathise with them, understand the ugly side of their learning experience then help them confront their worst fears. It is ugly having to tackle the parts of a subject that stink, but inevitably these are the blocks at the base of JENGA.

So can I apply it? And can I go back to bed now?

Which leads me to another theme - we no longer simply bring work home with us, we take it to bed and sleep with it. If this pisses you off then let me introduce you to 'working with dreams'. If you are prepared to get up for an hour in the dead of night, or can flick on a light without invoking divorce then scribble stuff down to catalyse the thought in the morning. Can work wonders, can produce nonsense, can just be some things you need to put on the supermarket shopping list ... or another dream of being naked on the stage, not knowing your lines and needing the lo but all the exits are locked and the orchestra has stopped and you have to say something.

Which, courtesy of the wonders of the mind, has me in the front row of a performance of The Tempest at the University Theatre, Newcastle when I was 13 or 14. Caliban was naked, covered in mud and wearing a prosthetic erect penis.


P.S. And give me 20 minutes searching the Internet and I will be able to name the actor, date the show and possibly even find a picture. Perhaps you'd like to have a go. But before you do so, be very fearful of what the search terms you use might throw up.

P.P.S. It may have been David Suchet, with Juliet Stevenson or some such as Aerial. The performance was in 1974, possibly a precursor to the RSC doing a Newcastle Tour every March at the Theatre Royal and Gulbenkien. It may have been Jim Carter. Or none of these!

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OLDs MOOC 2013 - Week 3 Hang Out on the 7Cs of Learning Design

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 22 Oct 2014, 08:52

‘Teachers want support and guidance to help them rethink their design practice, to think beyond content to and activities to make pedagogically informed design decisions that make good use of technologies’.

I’ve just been listening over the OLDs MOOC hangout for Week 3 and particularly enjoyed the Q&A with

Professor Gráinne Conole

The sentence above stood out from the 60 minutes, as well as how this was put into context for the MOOC in Week 3 and coming up in Week 8. Personally I wish we’d had something like this to begin the week. I got in early, did a couple of activities then followed the noise from the active design group I've joined. Give others a turn. Let things roll over. This works. Leave gaps and sometimes others will come along and think, OK, he's done that so I can see how it works, or might work for me. I won't bother with that tool, I'll try something else and see what people make of it. I cherry picked and as this hangout suggests and recommends, I’ll go back and pick out more as required. I enjoyed downloading, colouring in, cutting out then using the Activity Cards. This is more my thing than the EXCEL spreadsheet - which I planned on a sheet of paper then transferred over. I might use an APP to generate such a thing. I find EXCEL somewhat heavy handed, or I’d want to design it in a way that I like. We learnt about the background to 7Cs. The background and context was invaluable. Credibility ought not be taken for granted. Work like this needs to be put on a pedestal and people told of its credentials and worth - i.e sell it to me! 7Cs is an OU with OU Learning Design Initiative with JISC through the Curriculum Design Programme. Activity Profile and Course Map. Trialed thoroughly. Gráinne Conole continued this work with the JISC funded CARPE Dium learning design workshops at Leicester whiuch provides a ' rich storyboard of learning design'. More on this from: Gabi Witthaus Ming Nei More at http://www.olds.ac.uk/ And http://e4innovation.com/ Overarching conceptual framework A lot Cs here: Conceptualise - vision for the course, who is it for, what is the nature of the learners and personas Course features - the essence of it. Creative activity - capture, communicate and consider Conceptual Combine - into course map and activity profile Consolidate - running it as face to face, or VLE, or more specialised learning design tool, or …. From Gráinne's blog:

7 cs of learning design fromGráinne Conole

7Cs element
Learning Design tool
Course features
Design Narratives
Analysing context: factors and concerns
Resource audit
Repository search strategy
Course map
Activity profile
Task swimlane
E-moderating framework
Mapping forums, blogs and wikis
Communicative affordances
Collaborative affordances
CSCL Pedagogical Patterns
Assessment Pedagogical Patterns
Learning outcomes map

With current thinking on 7Cs Various systems offered and can be tried. Listening to OLDs MOOCers it appears that the 7Cs framework has been received well

  • It articulates what teachers already do.
  • There are 7 aspects in a whole design process.
  • What level are you teaching, what level of support do they need etc:
  • Teachers (all of us I would say, educators, learning designers, L&D managers) are bewildered by the range of tools, the range of approaches so fall back on their own content. So use the tools to think about the activities, the core essence of hte course.

Gráinne introduced the work of Helen Keegan, Augmented Reality and risk. More on use of augmented learning 7Cs has been found useful in Australia

  • Indigenous Culture on locality.
  • Introducing elements of serendipity.
  • Activity profile
  • Is it the right mix of learning for what you want the students to do.
  • Correlation of time mapped out to what students are achieving … so she is poor at communication in Spanish … and there is little communication in the course she is doing.

Is this the right tool set?

  • Covers all the aspects of design.
  • Getting a taster for these in the course.

‘A huge amount in the MOOC is mix and pic, so take your time, come back to the resources. Six months down the line, you discover which ones you like’.

  • Some love the activity profiles some don’t, so find the mix that works for you.
  • Some with learning outcomes.
  • Some with the content.
  • Some with the characteristics of the context of the learners.
  • Different tools will mean different things to different people.

‘We’re offering a Smörgåsbord of offerings that you can develop and use over time. Pick the ones that are relevant to you, don’t feel that you have to use all of them’.

Larnica Declaration on Learning Design

(More coming up in WK 8 to act as a springboard to reflect)

  • What is learning design?
  • How has it come about?
  • Why is it different to structural design?

Professor James Dalziel

2011 ALTC National Teaching Fellow

  • Driven by people in Europe and colleagues in Australia.
  • What is learning design? How has it come about?
  • How is it distinct from instructional design?
  • Major Epiphany moment Sept 2012
  • Two days in Cyprus
  • Timeline of key moments since 199 learning design

REF: Key books on design science (Dianna Laurillard)  Teaching Design as a Science It’s aimed to be pedagogically neutral so that it can be used across a range of methodologies and pedagogies.

  • Tools for guidance and support
  • Tools for visualisation
  • Tools for sharing like Cloudworks

What works for you

  • It depends on the nature of how people want to go about things
  • Visual
  • Linear
  • Connect and be sociable
  • Open, unstructured … to form some kind of navigatable way through, as well as enjoying the serendipity. Having the options of the long and short routes.
  • Is something more needed in the middle ground. B MOOCs.

BLOG http://www.larnacadeclaration.org

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The idea of gathering a substantial part of one’s life experience fascinates me, as it has often inspired others

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 19 Nov 2013, 09:42

Fig. 1. Hands by Escher.

The danger is for it to become one’s modus operandi, that the act of gathering is what you become. I recall many decades ago, possibly when I started to keep a diary when I was 13, a documentary - that can no doubt now be found on the Internet - on a number of diarists. There were not the well-known authors or celebrity politicians, but the obscure keeper of the heart beat, those who would toil for two hours a day writing about what they had done, which was to edit what they’d written about the day before … if this starts to look like a drawing by Escher then perhaps this illustrates how life-logging could get out of hand, that it turns you inside out, that it causes implosion rather than explosion. It may harm, as well as do good. We are too complex for this to be a panacea or a solution for everybody. A myriad of book, TV and Film expressions of memory, its total recall, false recall, falsehoods and precisions abound. I think of the Leeloo in The Fifth Element learning about Human Kind flicking through TV Channels.

Fig. 2. Leeloo learns from TV what the human race is doing to itself

Always the shortcut for an alien to get into our collective heads and history. Daryl Hannah does it in Splash too. Digitisation of our existence, in part or total, implies that such a record can be stored (it can) and retrieved in an objective and viable way (doubtful). Bell (2009) offers his own recollections, sci-fi shorts and novels, films too that of course push the extremes of outcomes for the purposes of storytelling rather than seeking more mundane truth about what digitization of our life story may do for us.

Fig. 3. Swim Longer, Faster

There are valid and valuable alternatives - we do it anyway when we make a gallery of family photos - that is the selective archiving of digital memory, the choices over what to store, where to put it, how to share then exploit this data. I’m not personally interested in the vital signs of Gordon Bell’s heart-attack prone body, but were I a young athlete, a competitive swimmer, such a record during training and out of the pool is of value both to me and my coach. I am interested in Gordon Bell’s ideas - the value added, not a pictoral record of the 12-20 events that can be marked during a typical waking day, images grabbed as a digital camera hung around his neck snaps ever 20-30 seconds, or more so, if it senses ‘change’ - gets up, moves to another room, talks to someone, browses the web … and I assume defecates, eats a meal and lets his eyes linger on … whatever takes his human fancy.

How do we record what the mind’s eye sees?

How do we capture ideas and thoughts? How do we even edit from a digital grab in front of our eyes and pick out what the mind is concentrating on? A simple click of a digital camera doesn’t do this, indeed it does the opposite - it obscure the moment through failing to pick out what matters. Add sound and you add noise that the mind, sensibly filters out. So a digital record isn’t even what is being remembered. I hesitate as I write - I here two clocks. No, the kitchen clock and the clicking of the transformer powering the laptop. And the wind. And the distant rumble of the fridge. This is why I get up at 4.00am. Fewer distractions. I’ve been a sound engineer and directed short films. I understand how and why we have to filter out extraneous noises to control what we understand the mind of the protagonist is registering. If the life-logger is in a trance, hypnotized, day dreaming or simply distracted the record from the device they are wearing is worse than an irrelevance, it is actually a false cue, a false record.

Fig. 4. Part of the brain and the tiniest essence of what is needed to form a memory

Mind is the product of actions within a biological entity. To capture a memory you’d have to capture an electro-chemical instance

across hundreds of millions of synapses.

Fig. 5. Diving of Beadnell Harbour, 1949. My later mother in her teens.

An automatically harvested digital record must often camouflage what might have made the moment a memory. I smell old fish heads and I see the harbour at Beadnell where as a child fisherman brought in a handful of boats every early morning. What if I smell old fish as I take rubbish to recycle? Or by a bin down the road from a fish and chip shop. What do my eyes see, and what does my mind see?

I love the messiness of the human brain - did evolution see this coming?

In ‘Delete’ Mayer-Schönberger (2009. p. 1) suggests that forgetting, until recently was the norm, whereas today, courtesy of our digital existences, forgetting has become the exception. I think we still forget - we don’t try to remember phone numbers and addresses as we think we have them in our phone - until we wipe or lose the thing. In the past we’d write them down, even make the effort to remember the things. It is this need to ‘make an effort’ to construct a memory that I fear could be discombobulated. I’m disappointed though that Mayer-Schönberger stumbles for the false-conception ‘digital natives’ - this is the mistaken impression that there exists a generation that is more predisposed and able than any other when it comes to all things digital. Kids aren’t the only ones with times on their hands, or a passion for the new, or even the budget and will to be online. The empirical evidence shows that the concept of a digital native is unsound - there aren’t any. (Jones et al, 2010., Kennedy et al, 2009., Bennet and Maton, 2010., Ituma, 2011) The internet and digital possibilities have not created the perfect memory. (Mayer-Schönberger 2009. p. 3)

To start with how do we define ‘memory’ ?

A digital record is an artefact, it isn’t what is remembered at all. Indeed, the very nature of memory is that it is different every time you recall a fact or an event. It becomes nuanced, and coloured. It cannot help itself.

Fig. 6. Ink drops as ideas in a digital ocean

A memory like drops of ink in a pond touches different molecules every time you drip, drip, drip. When I hear a family story of what I did as a child, then see the film footage I create a false memory - I think I remember that I see, but the perspective might be from my adult father holding a camera, or my mother retelling the story through ‘rose tinted glasses’.

Fig. 7. Not the first attempt at a diary, that was when I was 11 ½ .

I kept a diary from March 1973 to 1992 or so. I learnt to write enough, a few bullet points in a five year diary in the first years - enough to recall other elements of that day. I don’t need the whole day. I could keep a record of what I read as I read so little - just text books and the odd novel. How might my mind treat my revisting any of these texts? How well and quickly would it be recalled? Can this be measured? Do I want it cluttering the front of my brain?

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The power to remember and the need to forget

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 30 Jan 2013, 11:10


Fig 1. Your life? Remembered or forgotten?

Digitally record or better to delete?


It frustrates me to try and read two complementary books in two different formats - the first is marketed in its traditional hardback edition with a designer cover and eye-grabbing introduction from Bill Gates, while the second, an eBook I find understated - as if it is ashamed to compete. They are a pair. Twins separated at birth. They argue from opposite sides of the digital coin, one in favour of digitizing everything under the sun, the other for circumspection and deletion. Perhaps there should be a face off at the Oxford Union Debating Society. My role here is to bring them together and in doing so provide a one word conclusion: selection.


‘Total Recall’ (Bell and Gemmel, 2009) with its film-reference title and sensationalist headline ‘how the e-memory revolution will change everything’ risks ostracising a discerning academic readership in favour of sales reputation and coining a phrase or two. It’s hero Gordon Bell might be the protagonist in the movie. The shame is that at the heart of what is more biography than academic presentation there is the desire to be taken seriously - a second edition could fix this - there needs to be a sequel. My copy of Total Recall arrived via trans-Atlantic snail mail in hardback. It took over a week. With its zingy dust jacket - it feels like a real book. I’m no bibliophile but I wonder if the pages are uncut and this edition has been pulled from a reject pile. It was discounted Amazon and as I’m after the words contained in the book rather than the physical artifact its state ought not to be a concern. Though the fact that it is a physical book rather pegs it to a bygone era. Total recall refers to the idea of a photographic or 'eidetic memory' - this needs to be stated and ought to be a design feature of the book. It ought to be an e-book.




‘Delete’ (2009) Viktor Mayer-Schönberger is subtitled ‘The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age’ and sounds as if it was authored by a vampire from Transylvania. It is a foil to ‘Total Recall’ with Viktor the antagonist to ‘Flash Drive’ Gordon. Delete hasn’t been - its in its fourth printing, needless to say I got mine in seconds as a Kindle version. I only ever buy a book-book if I have to. I am too used to the affordances of the eBook to skim, search, highlight and share - and to have on a Kindle, iBook, laptop and smartphone to browse as I wish.

The copyright notice in Total Recall on ‘the scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet’ is ironic because this is what Bell does with his life - he has scanned and uploaded his life (though access is totally private). A double irony as he elects for Web 1.0 but won’t join the Semantic Web 2.0 and share. I have been an exponent of ‘exposure’ - the release of a substantial part of who you are for others to chew over. The online diary.

The way forward stands between the two, selective extreme gathering, storing and retrieval of your personal archive, while discretely deleting the irrelevant, possibly illegal (copyright, plagiarism, stalking, libel) and otherwise potentially reputationally damaging to kith or kin.

They could be landform and landfill.

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Don't look through these 'mighty illusions' if you have an essay crisis ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 30 Jan 2013, 11:13


Mighty Illusions

(I just can't sleep. I'm waiting for the roof to come off the house, a tree to land on the car or Dorothy and Toto to fly by)

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OLDS MOOC WK 3 Activity 2 (or 1b)

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 22 Oct 2014, 09:48

Fig. 1. Activity Cards for curriculum planning downloaded from JISC

I'm very glad to be doing this OU hosted Massive Open Online Course on Learning Design

I have a couple of weeks in hand and desperately wanted to make and do stuff. I've joined one Cloudscape where the aim is to design learning on DIY Multimedia. I have three projects of my own too - not takers from others as they're rather 'out of the box' - ideas around lifelogging, augmented learning and virtual companions.

This exercise I recommend. Indeed, I think getting away from the screen and using bits of paper, getting on the phone, not relying on webinars ... and meeting face-to-face all makes sense.

OLD MOOC WK 3 Activity 2 Course Cards

Getting off the computer and into an activity, ideally a collaborative one, is always productive. A carefully moderated workshop can reveal the unexpected, more importantly it is an informed way to prioritise issues and to use a the combined expertise of a variety of people. From the OU Course B822 Creative Innovation and Change I learnt the value of constructing a team of people to address a problem - from different backgrounds, with different responsibilities and outlooks, even someone to rock the boat. No one person’s voice is allowed to override the views of others. Such a group would achieve a lot with this OULDI pack. Though game-like it is a valid and valuable tool.

Working alone there were a number of hurdles to overcome:

A black and white printer.
The sheets were printed off then painted. Not liking the look of the purple these cards all become yellow.
Ideally they would all be spray-glued to backing card to make them more robust - at least so that they don’t curl up at the edges.
On the first sweep I got the 38 number of cards down to 26. This was gradually reduced in 2s and 3s until there were the requisite 16.

Fig.2. Used a pairs table the 16 cards were ranked

Using a paired-sets in a table I was able to rank these 16 - clearly the exercise of discussing these with colleagues would have been extremely useful and the process of deliberation brought up issues of budget, resources and time-scale, and even refined the project as it is conceived and visualised as a certain number of activities.

Fig. 3. In rank order a diamond was created with the chosen cards.

  1. Problem Based
  2. Applied Concepts
  3. Mentoring in work-place
  4. Collaborative
  5. Scaffolded learning
  6. Practice based
  7. Student generated content
  8. Day Schools
  9. Blended approach
  10. Authentic resources
  11. Practice placement
  12. Professional community
  13. Portfolio or eportfolio
  14. Peer-support
  15. Active discovert
  16. Step by step instruction

Choose a maximum of 12 cards from the pack which define the key features of your course or module.

Step by step instructions Guidance and Support
Scaffolded learning  
Mentoring in the workplace  
Applied concepts Content and Experience
Authentic resources  
Collaborative Communication and Collaboration
Practice placement  
Day schools  
Student generated content Reflection and Demonstration
Portfolio or e-portfolio  


In terms of the module DIY Mutli-media I become very aware of the value of learning alongside an expert, of being with skilled practitioners even - and very much the need to have a project brief to work to. So very much a hands on learning experience with authentic tools to create a real object or digital asset, or activity. This would also take the learners away from the computer screen, even out of the classroom into a design studio or agency. In fact the 'Online' card didn't make it into the 16. Even though this is to develop skills in use of digital multimedia tools I felt I was organising a workshop for potters, painters and tapestry weavers i.e. there is a highly practical element to it and there's nothing better than having a live guide at your shoulder ... and if there has to be a compromise then it would be live or 'as live' instruction over the Internet.

My first career was in television

I got out of a graduate position in an advertising agency and became the 'runner' and 'production assistant' in a micro-production company. We were six and were down to three for most of the time. I learnt by latching onto an experience BBC Producer - so directing, producing and writing. Then on the job. In time I supplemented this with trade association workshops and some formal day or afternoon workshops. After four years I took a fulltime course. This exercise has made me see how much multi-media production is a craft skill - we may use keyboard and computer screens, but so do TV editors these days too. I've even used a broadcast video camera with iPad touchscreen like controls on the viewing monitor (nightmare!) ... for someone used to buttons and knobs.

I have been hugely encouraged to get away from screens and be with people face to face despite believing in all things e-learning. Even major practitioners will talk about activities away from the screen, or phoning a friend or colleague ... even expecting a phone call or a debriefing workshop. This is because those commissioning learning want results and will break away from the shoehorn of e-learning to do so ... great for scale, great for compliance, but hardly 'human'.

Perhaps the 'e-' is coming detached from 'learning'.

Learning is the thing, whether it is online, face to face, mobile or augmented. The 'e' has to stand for 'effective' - did it work! And student analytics and feedback will quickly tell you if you are getting it right or wrong.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 29 Jan 2013, 22:49


Fig. 1. Swimtag

Swimtag today, skitag tomorrow

Serendipity had me click on Swimtag and I'm hooked - as a swimmer and coach, but for the purposes of this note as a prospective PhD student looking for a research project for the next three years.

My interest is in e-learning, sport and virtual assistants / augmented learning.

Armed with a set of swimtags I'd like to research their use with a range of swimmers: masters, elite athletes, learn to swim and swimmers with disabilities. We have all of these in our 1000+ member swimming club Mid Sussex Marlins SC. Early days - I have only just completed a Masters in Open & Distance Education and am tentatively speaking to potential supervisors at the Open University, Oxford Internet Institute and Web Sciences at Southampton University with a view to submitting a doctoral research project in the next couple of months.

My vision is how swimtag becomes as commonplace as swim goggles, then translates into other sports and other fields, including business, but also as a potential prothesis for people suffering from dementia or memory loss so potentially tied into other data capture devices.

I am seriously looking at funded PhD research for the next 3/4 years.

I am interested in e-learning, so Learning & Development particularly for v. large organisations. There is a groundswell of interest in devices/software that enhance or support memory and learning. There is a fertile crossover between health - providing support say to those who would benefit from cognitive support, what we call 'lifelogging' - so gathering pertinent data about the world around you, then using this in an artificially edited form (using Artificial Intelligence algorithms) to supplement memory loss or to enhance learning potential as a virtual companion. Those recovering from a stroke or with dementia included.

It may sound like science fiction but people have been working on these ideas for a decade or more.

I appreciate that simply tagging vulnerable people who may wander off and not know how to find their way home is one way to support but I'm thinking about quality of life and facilitating memory and communication too.

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OLDS MOOC 2013 'Methods & tools: The activity checklist: a tool for representing the "space" of context'

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 22 Oct 2014, 09:44

Fig. 1. Durer's Rhino.

I dutifully followed an OLD MOOC 2013 link to an article that pertained to offer a checklist for a would-be e-learning designer to get their head around the 'context of learning.' The article takes the model and theory of an Activity System and implies they will then offer this as a check list - I literally expected a set of questions and a check box set against the key concepts/issues of an Activity System:

  • Tools
  • Subject
  • Object
  • Rules
  • Community
  • Division of Labour

Though by doing so forgets crucial hidden issues such as the 'action' or activity between these points, the historicity of an activity system in a chronology of change, the interaction of more than one activity system to generate an alternative object  ... and so on.

It has to be a matter of choice and working practice, but for me an Activity System drawn up as a triangle with interacting nodes on a large sheet of paper is a far better way to visualise and share the components involved. The very process of explaining what each node represents becomes a point of discussion, disagreement and compromise that forces ideas into the open.

Fig. 2. Engestrom's Activity System in practice - addressing accessible e-learning

I have even gone so far as to take out chess pieces and put them at these nodes to represent 'community' for example ... and have pieces of string to denote the activity and interactions.

Fig.3. Getting an Activity System visualised and closer to the real world - as interaction between people.

Then if people aren't flummoxed to add a second activity system to represent separate communities or system with a common goal that through interaction will produce a valid, for different, new and unexpected outcome (or Object 3 if you follow Engestrom closely). In this respect sharing how Activity Systems can help explain the context becomes a creative problem solving exercise and a crucial part of early learning design analysis.

Fig. 4. How Engestrom takes Activity Theory to the next step and conceptualises the interactions between two systems. A meeting of minds or a meeting of institutions?

I found reading about Activity Theory without the classic equilateral triangle rather like trying to describe a rhinoceros without a picture.

Fig. 5. From 'Methods & Tools' (1999) Not a checklist so much as a table.

The above strikes me as rather like itemisizing the parts of a jelly-fish in an Excel Spreadsheet. This works for some people - a unique a tiny minority. The entire purpose of laying out an Activity Sytem as a diagram is to help make the complex seem less so - Kaptelinin et al have done the exact opposite.


Engeström, Y (1999) ‘Activity theory and individual and social transformation’, in Y. Engeström, R, Miettinen and R.-L. Punamaki (eds) Perspectives on Activity Theory, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kaptelinin, V.; Nardi, B. A. & Macaulay, C. (1999), 'Methods & tools: The activity checklist: a tool for representing the "space" of context', interactions 6 (4) , 27--39 .

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Close engagements with artificial companions

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 24 Feb 2013, 07:57



My interest here is the shift from science-fiction to fact - that AI - artificial intelligence on the web can and is delivering support. This will manifest itself in various ways, including support and assessment of early drafts of written assignments, possibly reading a blog to comment where others don't ... and to aid those who are isolated or at odds with the technology.

This book takes it into the realm of companions, as talking 'pets', as reflections of the user and potentially even after many years of support becoming a virtual record or avatar of the deceased.


Wilks, Y (2010) (ed)Close Engagements with Artificial Companions. Volume 8. Key social, psychological, ethical and design issues. Natural Language Processing. John Benjamins Publishing Company. Amsterdam/Philadelphia.

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Surgeon Soldier in Iraq – Part 2: Exsanguinating Hemorrhage

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 30 Dec 2012, 12:50


My lines of enquiry can take me in some peculiar places.

All I wanted to do was write a 60 second piece on the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on the streets of Sarajevo on the morning of Sunday 28th June 1914. (Around 300 words to read, 260 or so out loud for video, even less with pauses)

Not a simple issue, and after a day of reading and several thousand words and enough for a 20 minute documentary I conclude that the story has to begin centuries before with the conquest of the Balkans by the Ottoman Empire ... then first ideas for a Greater Serbian State free not just of the Ottoman Empire, but also of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from around 1901.

There were seven assassins on the street - trained, armed with revolvers and hand-thrown bombs ready to act. It was well organised, the target agreed many months before, the nationalist group behind it already with a successful regicide on its books.

Had the Archduke listened to advice he would not have been in Sarajevo and he most certainly would not have returned to the streets after the first failed attempt on his life when a bomb was thrown at this car but ended up under the vehicle behind seriously wounded several and injuring many more.

The vital thing for all students to understand is that treaties, the Great Powers taking sides, and agitations of many kinds had the players on the field eager to get started. When you've got a fight brewing in the playground and the kids, teachers and authorities are all shouting 'Fight! Fight! Fight!' that is what will happen. The assassination by a lone killer of the leader of the French Socialist Party Jean Jaures, who was determined to find a peaceful solution in late July 1914 indicated the mood - the assassin was considered heroic.

I've been through the sixty minutes that take the 19 year old Gavrilo Princip from one side of the Quay Appel at around 10.15 am as the entoruage pass to the opposite side of the Street and the Rue Frans Joseph where he is standing with a revolver by the side of the road when the entourage returns stops in front of him and starts to reverse putting the assassin less that 5ft away from the Archduke and Duchess at around 10.50 am. Princip is a good shot, he's been practising for months. He shot twice - once at the Archduke, then at the Duchess. The first bullet entered the Archduke's neck. piercing the external jugular and lodging itself in his spine. At this short range it suggests that the bullet 'mushroomed' on impact, otherwise it would surely have penetrated the rear seat of the vehicle. The second bullet entered the Duchess's abdomen.

Curious to see it all in my mind's eye I Google away and have ample to read on gunshots to the neck - including medical and surgical papers I can read through the OU Library. A hundred years on a surgeon on hand and a dash to the hospital and the Archduke may have survived - though damage to his spine would have left him a quadriplegic. 65-60% fatality even today. Also a 30% chance of brain damage. Ligation of the vein. Count Harrac was at the Archduke's side put a handkerchief against the wound, what he needed to do was reach in and grip either side of the severed vein.

To save the Duchess it sounds as if a laparotomy would have been required urgently using procedures to control the damage done to the abdomen - such surgery only started to become common place in the 1950s. An 'abbreviated laparotomy with physiologic resuscitation in the intensive care unit and staged abdominal reconstruction' would have done the job - indeed I've just read about people with multiple shots across the abdomen from a machine gun who survive - in 2011. So fly in the air ambulance time machine and bring her out ... or just get there a few moments earlier and stop the whole shenanigans.

This below, for a contemporary take on field surgery in a war zone is a gripping, heartwarming, informed read. I guess after 6 weeks in somewhere like Iraq an US surgeon is ready for Chicago or the Comptons, Los Angeles.

Surgeon Soldier in Iraq – Part 2: Exsanguinating Hemorrhage


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H810: Seale Chapter 13 : issues identified in relation to creating accessible e-learning for students with disabilities

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 22 Dec 2020, 07:21


Fig.1 Groundhog Day staring Bill Murray

At what point does the protagonist in the film 'Groundhog Day' -  TV weatherman Phil Connors played by Bill Murray - unite the Punxsutawney community? How does he do it? And what does this tell you about communities of practice? (Wenger 1998)


Fig. 2. Chick Peas - a metaphor for the potential congealing effect of 'reificaiton'

Issues related to creating accessible e-learning

Pour some dry chickpeas into a tall container such as a measuring jug add water and leave to soak overnight. The result is that the chickpeas swell so tightly together that they are immovable unless you prize them out with a knife - sometimes the communities of practice are embedded and immovable and the only answer could be a bulldozer - literally to tear down the buildings and start again.

'Congealing experiences into thingness'. Seale (2006:179) or derived from Wenger (1998)

This is what happens when 'reification causes inertia' Wenger in Seale (2006:189).

'Reification' is the treatment of something abstract as a material or concrete thing. Britannica, 2012.

To ‘reify’ it to thingify’. Chandler (2000) , ‘it’s a linguistic categorization, its the conceptualization of spheres of influence, such as ‘social’,’educational’ or ‘technological’.’ (ibid)

'Reification creates points of focus around which the negotiation of meaning becomes organized'. Seale (2006)

It has taken over a century for a car to be tested that can take a blind person from a to b - the huge data processing requirements used to scan the road ahead could surely be harnessed to 'scan the road ahead' to make learning  materials that have already been digitised more accessible.

Participating and reification - by doing you give abstract concepts form.

1) Institutional and individual factors need to be considered simultaneously.
2) Inclusivity (and equity), rather than disability and impairments, should be the perspective i.e. the fix is with society rather than the individual.
3) Evidence based.
4) Multifaceted approach.
5) Cultural and systemic change at both policy and practice levels.
6) Social mobility and lifelong learning were ambitions of Peter Mandelson (2009).
7) Nothing should be put or left in isolation - workshops with children from the British Dyslexia Association included self-esteem, literacy, numeracy, study skills and best use of technology.
8) Encouraging diversity, equity of access and student access.
9) Methods should be adapted to suit the circumstances under which they are being applied.
10) Technical and non-technical people need to work together to tackle the problems.
11) A shared repertoire of community practices ...
12) Design for participation not use .... so you let the late arrivals to the party in even if they don't drink or smoke (how would you integrated mermaids?)
13) Brokering by those who have multiple memberships of groups - though the greater the number of groups to which they belong the more likely this is all to be tangential.
14) Might I read constellation and even think collegiate?
15) If we think of a solar system rather than a constellation what if most are lifeless and inaccessible?
16) Brokers with legitimacy may cross the boundaries between communities of practice. Wenger (1998)
17) Boundary practices Seale (2003)


Fig. 3. John Niell, CBE, CEO and Group Chairman of UGC

Increasingly I find that corporate and institutional examples of where a huge change has occured are the product of the extraordinary vision and leadership of one person, who advocates putting the individual at the centre of things. Paying lip service to this isn't enough, John Neil CBE, CEO and now Chairman of the Unipart Group of Companies (UGC) called it 'The Unipart Way'.


Britannica (2012) Definition of reification. (Last accessed 22 Dec 2012 http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/496484/reification)

Chandler, D (2000) Definition of Reify. (Last accessed 22 Dec 2012 http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/tecdet/tdet05.html)

Seale, J. (2006) E-Learning and Disability in Higher Education: Accessibility Research and Practice, Abingdon, Routledge; also available online at http://learn2.open.ac.uk/ mod/ subpage/ view.php?id=153062 (last accessed 23 Dec 2012).

Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Balancing on a thin line - Thoughts from a study of Swedish voluntary leaders in children’s football.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 21 Dec 2020, 09:56

Learning and identity

The concepts of learning and identity are closely interwoven and seen as a social process of making meaning, primly inspired by the situated learning. (Wenger 1998)

Identity is not only about our self image or other people’s image of ourselves, it is our way of living our everyday life, it is the layers of experiences and interpretations that we have made by participating in social practices (Wenger 1998) the nature of participation, power, enterprise, mutual engagement and sociality, shared repertoire, and identity

‘Legitimate peripheral participation is not itself an educational form, much less a pedagogical strategy or a teaching technique. It is an analytical viewpoint on learning, a way of understanding learning. We hope to make clear as we proceed that learning through legitimate peripheral participation takes place no matter which educational form provides a context for learning, or whether there is any intentional educational form at all'.
(Lave and Wenger 1991, page 40).

Communities of Practice was developed by considering a wide range of apprenticeship learning situations, from traditional tailors through to participation in communities such as alcoholics anonymous.

Learning is thus characterised as a process of changing participation, from initial peripheral participation of the apprentice or, more generally, newcomer to the practices to the fuller participation available to a 'master' or old timer in the practices.

Wenger (1998) identifies three essential features:

  • mutual engagement
  • a joint enterprise
  • a shared repertoire.

Engaging in practice over a period of time develops a shared repertoire of practices,
understandings, routines, actions, and artefacts (Wenger 1998).

Participation in communities of practice is not only about learning to do, but as a part of doing, it is about learning to be (Lave and Wenger 1991)

Firstly, it shifts the focus from teaching to learning and the practices the learner engages in (Adler 1998). 

Secondly, it recharacterises the role of the teacher as not primarily being a holder of knowledge but an expert in the practices of a subject based community. The teacher exemplifies for the learner how to legitimately participate in these practices.

Thirdly, as a situated theory of learning it helps to explains the issue of a lack of ‘transfer’ of knowledge from school to non-school contexts (see Evans 2000; Lave 1988; Lerman 1999, for a discussion of this issue).

Fourthly, it recognises the intimate connection between the ‘subject’ practices and the pedagogical practices and therefore helps us to understand why different pedagogies not only influence the amount that is learned but also what is learned. The acquisition (Lave 1988) or representational model (Seely Brown and Duguid 1989) of learning in school contexts distinguishes between what the students are to learn or to ‘acquire’, and the means by which this learning occurs. A division is made between subject and pedagogy.

Fifthly, it highlights the extent to which educators are not imparting knowledge nor even only helping their students to engage in particular social practices but rather to become particular types of human beings. Thus it opens avenues of inquiry to understand learners' patterns of identification and non-identification with schools mathematics (see for example, Boaler 2000)

The community of practice model, based on the metaphor or actuality of apprenticeship learning identifies three basic positions that participants take up.

These can be referred to in the following way:

  • master/old-timer/expert,
  • journeyman/established-member/adept,
  • apprentice/newcomer/novice.


However, it is clear that the basic positions in a classroom are not like this, there is generally a single teacher and a relatively large number of pupils. Moreover, the trajectory of participation of the student is not to become a teacher (Adler 1998; Lemke 1997; Lerman 1998).

One way of reconceptualising or extending Communities of Practice is to consider learning as taking place in 'ecologies of practices' (Boylan 2004)


Adler, J. (1998) "Lights and limits: Recontextualising Lave and Wenger to theorise knowledge ofteaching and of learning school mathematics." In Situated Cognition and the Learning of Mathematics, ed. Anne Watson, 161-177. Oxford: Centre for Mathematics Education, University of Oxford Department of Educational Studies.

Boaler, J. (2000) "Mathematics from another world: Traditional communities and the alienation of learners." Journal of Mathematical Behaviour 18, no. 3: 379-397.

Boylan, M (2004) Questioning (in) school mathematics: Lifeworlds and ecologies of practice PhD Thesis. Sheffield Hallam University

Herting, K (2006) Balancing on a thin line - Thoughts from a study of Swedish voluntary leaders in children’s football. AARE’s 36th Annual International Education Research Conference Adelaide Australia November 27 -30 2006

Lave, J, and Wenger.E (1991) Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lemke, J. (1997) "Cognition, context, and learning: A social semiotic perspective." In Situated Cognition: Social, Semiotic, and Psychological Perspectives, ed. David Kirshner and JamesWhitson, 37-56. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Lerman, S. (1998) "Learning as social practice: An appreciative critique." In Situated
Cognition and the Learning of Mathematics, ed. Anne Watson, 33-42. Oxford: Centre for
Mathematics Education, University of Oxford Department of Educational Studies.

Seely Brown, J, and P. Duguid. (1991) Organisational learning and communities of practice: Toward a unified view of working, learning and innovation. Accessed November 2000. Available from http://www.parc.xerox.com/ops/members/brown/papers/orglearning.htm.

Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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H810 Activity 35 Chapter 12 Tutor Forum Response

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 13:25

Hi Adam, yes I agree that 'responsibility' comes up and that is what I come across even before people start to look at the tools - eyes glaze over on the discovery that there are many tools and lengthy guidelines and they'll conclude that it is potentially not worth the effort for them or the client ... in certain contexts - sports have strict guidelines relating to accessibility, as do places of education ... workplace education is another matter and I sometimes wonder if people just don't think there could possibly be anyone in their workforce who could have a disability that would prevent them using the internet ... otherwise how could they do their job. A number of charities have paid for an insightful video that introduces the viewer to a dozen or so people with disabilities in the workplace to understand where assistance and support comes from. We should remember that many have been on top of this themselves, often being early adopters of the technology for the benefits it brings to them - they don't need help necessarily, but could probably show you a few things if you need to personalise a browser.

I've had an incling that Engestrom has something interesting to say and I've misquoted him and convinced people that it means x, when it actually means y with no one wanting to correct me. As I indicated above to Christopher I wanted to crack this once and for all, especially as I am in the final weeks of the MAODE.

This therefore is essential reading. Find a case history that you might be familiar with and take it from there. These are thorough case studies from beginnign to end of consultancy like projects he and his team have undertaken for, amongst others, a TV production company, a court, a regional health service in Finland - so hospitals, specialist clincs and GP surgeries ... courts and think and several others.

Engeström.Y (2008) From Teams to Knots: Activity-theoretical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work. Learning in doing: Social, Cognitive & Computational Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. Series Editor Emeritus. John Seely Brown.

This brings it up to date.

Engeström.Y (2011) Learning by expanding: ten years after (last accessed 19 Dec 20-12) http://lchc.ucsd.edu/mca/Paper/Engestrom/expanding/intro.htm

My take on it includes drawing up an activity system on a large piece of board and adding some chess pieces - to get it into my head that all these nodes are people dealing with oither people even if they manifest themselves as tools or rules - someone wrote or designed them, and someone effectively holds the 'keys. Also to remind myself of the historical point of view .. a half eaten Toblerone.

Various manifestations of this in my Blog.


If you want to share thoughts and have time to get your head around it do please get in touch. It is my hope that I can research, construct and use an Activity System for real. I just think it is a way to get inside a subject thoroughly to understand the actions that are working and those that are misfiring or getting stuck, blocked or shredded.

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H810 Using an Activity System to improve accessibility to e-learning by students with disabilities.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 20 Dec 2012, 09:45



Fig.1. The consequences of an activity system - loads of action. Here a tutor group over a period of 27 weeks. 'Activity' is represented by messages in a tutor forum. H810 is an Open University postgraduate course in Education. Technology-enhanced learning: practices and debates

Visualizing actions between people, concepts and things required more than words - models and metaphor start to create meaning.

Why use any model?

A model should be a well-founded visual simplification of an aspect of a complex reality that communicates its concept clearly, is based on thorough research, and is easily shared for feedback and review. Users should find that a model, like an experiment, is repeatable so that in time a body of work including case studies and a critique of the model builds credibility. A conceptual model such as an Activity System is ‘particularly useful when one wants to make sense of systemic factors behind seemingly individual and accidental disturbances, deviations, and innovations occurring in the daily practices of workplaces’. Engeström (2008:27)

Conole and Oliver (2011) mention four levels of description:

1. Flat vocabulary
2. More complex vocabulary
3. Classification schemas or models
4. Metaphors

The vocabularly is inevitable, though talking this through to an audience would be my prefered approach, so that with engagement reponse is invited. The models used here, from Vyogtsy and Leon'tev to Engestrom may appear familiar and set - they not. There is a group that likes to see everything 'triangulated' - diamonds and stars, though evident in the literature on education - maybe akin to complex rather than plain language. From models we move to various metaphors - and you are certain to have your own. While Engeström himself moves on to ideas of 'knotworking' and fluid, organic representations.

Engeström (1987) took a current model - that of Vygotsky (1978) and made it his own and has since offered a metaphor to explain it further.

Why use an Activity System?

Activity Systems derive from a century of analysis of the way people construct meaning (Vygotsky, 1978. Leon’tev, 1978) that later researchers applied not simply to how people think, but how groups of people (Engeström, 1987) act in collaborative ways.


Fig.2. Application of Engeström’s (1987) systemic model of activity featured in Seale (2006)

There are two parts to an Activity System - upper and lower. The upper part is the triangle drawn to represent the interaction of Subject, Tools and Object.

Fig. 3.  Vygotsky.L.S. (1978) from Mind in Society.


Fig.4. The structure of a human activity system. Engeström 1987.

Historically this is where Vygotsky began in Moscow in the late 1920s (Fig.3) Engeström and others turned the experssion of Vygotsky's model the other way up. This split of upper and lower serves another purpose - Yrjö Engeström likens this expression of an activity system to an iceberg where the top triangle - Subject - Tools - Object is what we see, while the other actions, that give the system context - he added when developing Vygostky’s (1978) original model, are beneath the surface. Engeström. (2008:89). (Fig.4) It's worth remembering that Vygotsky was working on how people create meaning, while later thinkers have adapted this to help scrutinise how communities or groups of people, tools and sets of guidelines create (as Engeström puts it above, 'sense meaning' Engeström 1987).

When is the construction of an Activity System useful?

Engeström (2008:27) suggests that it is particularly useful ‘when one wants to make sense of systemic factors behind seemingly individual and accidental disturbances, deviations, and innovations occurring in daily practices of workplaces’. Someone needs to think it is necessary to study the status quo - perhaps because there is an awareness that something, somewhere is going wrong, or that there has been an actual downturn in business or collapse in profitability, or a desire simply to look at things in a different way to understand where improvements can be made, a change in policy and law, or a reinvented or renewed.


Fig. 5. Engeström.Y (2008) From Teams to Knots: Activity-theoretical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work.

Engeström (2008:207) suggests that there are five principles in relation to theories of activity systems.

  1. Object Orientation
  2. Mediation by tools and signs
  3. Mutual constitution of actions and activity
  4. Contradictions and deviations as source of change
  5. Historicity


Fig. 6 A White Knight from a Lewis Chess Set (replica) playing the role of the Object - the purpose, motivation and idea behind the activity in the system through whom sense is made or an outcome is derived.

1) Object Orientation

The Object is a problem, the purpose, the motivation and opportunity - the modus operandi behind the activity. ‘Object orientation’ (Engeström 2008:222) is a crucial prerequisite of working with an activity system. In the context of accessible e-learning Seale (2006:165) creates an Activity System in which the object(ive) is ‘to make e-learning accessible for disabled students’. As an exercise considering its widest application this object definition suffers because the object is so broad it embraces a myriad of issues and circumstances, each word is open to interpretation - what, for example, is meant by ‘e-learning’, what is meant by ‘accessible’ by ‘disabled’ and by ‘student’. Rather than an object as an opportunity or goal as Seale uses, a fix, the desired outcome, is more likely to be found where, at least in the first instance, we identify a particular context and a tightly defined problem.

Not only that, but to contain the likelihood of ‘ruptures’ across the activity system clarity and agreement is required on the problem that needs to be fixed. In relation to accessibility to e-learning for students with disabilities there are multiple problems, many unique to a student with a particular disability or, where feasible and appropriate, a group that can be identified by the nature of their disability, for example, deaf students who are seen as, and many want to see themselves as a ‘minority language’ group. What is more, a disabled student may have several impairments and the degree to which these are a barrier to e-learning is fluid, perhaps ameliorating with treatment, or getting worse, transmogrifying, or simply being intermittent. As these are known issues that would cause problems or clashes within the activity system and prevent its working it seems futile to build an activity system on this basis - knowing that it will fail.

A problem well stated is a problem half-solved’. (Charles Kettering)

This may be an aphorism, but it rings true. Problem scoping is necessary but where a problem remains elusive, or is ‘messy’ rather than ‘tame’ (Rittel and Webber's 1973, Ackoff 1979, Ritchey 2011) a variety of creative problem solving techniques (VanGundy, 1988. Griggs, 1985). Knowing what the problem is enables innovation - identifying the problem and devising a fix, and in communications, where, for example, advertisers prepare a creative brief that begins by clearly identifying the problem.

‘Object orientation’ and in this context, problem definition and refinement, is the first in five principles set out by Engeström (2008:207) for using activity systems. The drive, purpose and motivation for all the actions between the six identified nodes depends on the object ‘that which is acted upon’. A key component of activity theory is the transformation of this object into an outcome i.e. to solve the problem. If solving a problem is the goal, and recognition of a successful enterprise undertaken, then all the more reason to get the definition of the object correct - the process can be repeated for different problems, at different scales and over time. Without absolute clarity over the object you may find that different people in the system have differing interpretations of what it is. Kuutti (1996) found that having more than one object under scrutiny was a reason for an activity system to fail.  An answer where there are two distinct problems may be to treat them as such and attach them to separate activity systems. Whilst for the sake of scrutiny it is necessary to isolate an activity system, they do of course interact - indeed it is by looking at how two activity systems interact that you may reveal how problems are solved or innovations produced. However, if the object is wrong, or ill-defined or ambiguous then the motives may be out of kilter and it would therefore be necessary to transform all of the components of the activity system, especially and including those at the bottom half of the ‘iceberg’. Engeström (2008:87)


Fig. 7. The black Queen from a Lewis Chess Set representing 'Tools'

2) Mediation by Tools and Signs

Tools might be evaluation and repair tools and assistive technologies, software or legislation, guidelines or staff development. Tools are a mediating factor between the Subject (student, lecturer, facilitator of the desire outcome) and the Object - the purpose of all this activity.

Tools play a significant role in the history of tackling accessibility issues, to undue, out do or transform resources or interpret platforms in a way that communicates their meaning offering some if not all the affordances of the tools as designed for students, who, having gained a place to study a degree  in Higher Education might be thought of as some the most able’, not simply the ‘able’.Tools in this role at the apex of the Activity System and can include guidelines and legislation where they are an applied ‘tool’ rather than a rule or standard. ‘ A functioning tool for the analysis of teams and organisations’. Engeström  (2008:229) Of course the category includes evaluation and repair tools, assistive technologies and software and equipment. Tools ‘mediate’ between the Subject - the facilitator of change through activity and the outcome of the activities - the Object. ‘To build a website that complies to level AAA’ may be achievable whilst ‘to make e-learning accessible for disabled students’ Seale (2006smile sounds like wishful thinking, rather ‘to build an e-learning module that when scrutinised by a representative range of people with dyslexia’ receives a grading of ‘satisfactory’ or above’. This would suggest the involvement therefore of dyslexic students in the testing of a navigation interface for the virtual learning environment as an ‘action’ between subject and object.

There is a particular congregation of ‘contradictions’ stemming from the relationship between Tools and both Subject and Object:

  1. The array of design and evaluation software applications (Seale, 2006)
  2. The mastery of external devices and tools of labour activity (Nardi, 1996)
  3. No rules of practice for use of that tool (Isscroft and Scanlan, 2002 )
  4. Tools that are overly prescriptive (Phipps et al, 2005)
  5. How do you choose from amongst such a plethora of tools?
  6. The context in which tools are introduced (Seale, 2006:160)

3) Mutual constitution of actions and activity

The links between each component - object, tool, subject and so on - should equate to a burst of electricity or perhaps a chemical induced response between a synapse and a neuron - Engestrom (2008) goes as far as to liken an activity system to a type of fungi - mycorrhizae like formation  Engestrom (1997).



Fig.8. Mycorrhizae - one way Engeström sees an Activity System

An Activity System should be seen not as a concept of a static entity, but rather a living and growing thing. The actions, the double-arrows between each concept, are what gives an activity system structure  - it’s the management  of the disturbances, contradictions and conflicts along these lines of action that disturb effective flow where the role of an activity system comes in - identify then fix these and you move towards achieving the object orientation or outcome. Knorr-Cetina (2003) talks of 'flow architecture' and if neither of these concepts ring true for you in realtion to activity systems then Zerubavel (1997) talks of 'a mindscape' while Cussins (1992) talks of 'cogntive trails'.

4) Contradictions and deviations as source of change

I would have opted for Subject as the third issue, but reading Engeström made me think again. Subject, Tools, Object reduces the Activity System to the far simpler upturned triangle Vygotsky devised to explain how people create meaning (Vygotsky, 1978:86)  without further thought to the deeper and wider issues once learning is put in context, that Engeström (1987, 2008, 2011) added by broadening this way of showing how ‘meaning is created’ in the workplace by adding Rules, Community and Division of Labour.

Rather than picking one more of these concepts at the expense of leaving the others out I think that the ‘Actions’ the double arrows that indicate something happening between the elements is of interest. I believe this would be the fourth of Engeström's five principles - Contradictions and deviations as source of change. This after all is, literally, where all the ‘action’ takes place, what Seale (2006:164) describes as ‘problems, ruptures, breakdowns or clashes’.  (I need to go back and to understand what is meant by Engeström's third principle - ‘Mutual constitution of actions and activity’) I think this is the principle that the Activity System has to be seen as a complete, self-contained entity, that any break or failure or misunderstanding in the system would call it to fail so you’d be better of starting again from scratch until the scale or context works. Engeström uses the metaphor of a very particular kind of lichen (‘mycorrhizae’, Engeström, 2008:229) to describe Activity Systems - he doesn’t suggest however that you attempt to work with this kind of complexity, rather it is a reminder that an activity system is fluid and changing and depends on activity taking places between the defined nodes.

5) Historicity


Fig. 9. A discontinuous series of Activity Systems ... like Toblerone at Christmas.

'Historicity' - Engeström's experssion (2008) - is a term referring to 'the historical actuality of persons and events',(Wikipedia, 2012) suggests the need to see an Activity System as a snapshot, a sequence and a discontinuous one at that. So take the familiar equilateral triangle of the Activity System model and run a line of them. Seale (2006) suggests there is value to be found by doing some 'archaelogy' - I think 'historical research' would be an adequate way to think of it, for what this may reveal about how these 'rupture, conflicts' Seale (ibid) or 'contraditions and devistions as a source or change' Engeström (2008:223) along the lines of activity. Seale (2006) talks of how an activity system 'incesstanly reconstructs itself. Engeström (1994) talks of an ideal-typical sequence of epistemic actgions in an expansive cycle.


By definition here the ‘non-disabled’, particularly in the cognitive sense though sometimes with athletic promise too. Ironically whilst ‘non-disabled’ is not a favoured term it does at least relate to a homogenous group, while ‘disabled’ does not given the range, scale and potentially shifting nature of impairments to learning from hearing, to visual, cognitive and mobility.

Subject to be of most importance - this is the person, actor or lecturer, indeed a student - anyone who is responsible for facilitating and supporting the student’s learning experience. This may be a practitioner who works with a Higher Education Learning Technologist or the digital media access group if there is such a thing. Engeström (2008:222).

Any of the team members may be a novice, which may be a positive or negative influence for the actions in the system. A novice is inexpert, on the other hand they are free from the habits that may be causing problems and creating barriers. Because of the way a novice learns they are more inclined to innovate as they are not bound or even aware to rules, guidelines and beliefs that may hold them back.



Fig. 10 A collection of pawns from a Lewis Chess set representing 'Rules'

These can be formal, informal or technical rules. They are institutional and departmental policies and strategies. These are rules of practice, and legislation, as well as strategies and research. They are explicit and implicit norms. These are conventions and social relations. These in the context of accessible e-learning are the various guidelines related to web usability and legislation related to accessibility and equality. Universal Design and User Centred Design are rules too. Rules mediate between the subject and the community. The actions, the 'doing in order to transform something' or 'doing with a purpose' are the activities that link Rules with Subject, Rules with Object and Rules with Community.




Fig. 11. An Activity System represented by chess pieces.This 'Community' comprises the King and two bishops from replica of the Lewis Chess Set.

These are 'people who share the same objective' - their being in this activity system is dependent on their wishing to engage with the object, the opportunity, to strive to achieve the stated outcome. Any ruptures are therefore not a consequence of having the wrong person in this community - this grouping, this loose gathering of like-minded people, is what Engestrom has come to describe as a knot and the actions these people take as 'knotworking' Engeström (2008:194) - latent, informal, sometimes impromptu gatherings of people who assemble to address a problem or to take an opportunity - what Rheingold (2002) describes as 'smart mobs'.

Division of Labor (sic)This concept, or node as an ethereal entity is 'how people are organized to realise the object'. Not one to represent by a chess piece and one may think that this ought to be the link that joins people together ... this is where working with a model as the beat of a heart, not the heart itself, requires acceptance of the way a model is designed to work. Division of labor (US spelling for a Finnish academic ... who has bases in Helsinki and San Diego). This is planning and funding, designing and developing, implementing and evaluating, using, specialists vs. the mainstream).


Digitization of assets is akin to the creation of an ocean in which the binary code are the molecules of water - apt then with the shift from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 and our adopting the use of ‘the Cloud’ and ‘Cloud Computing’ to take this metaphor into a more dynamic form and think of it as a water-cycle. This system is shifting continually horizontally with currents and tides, but also vertically - the exponential growth in computing speeds and memory capacities the energy that drives the system. This global system hasn’t taken adequate account of people with disabilities - as in the real world there are barriers to access caused by visual, hearing, mobility and cognitive impairments - just as these have been addressed in a piecemeal way through legislation, funding, programmes and promotions, by disability groups or holistically, so too with adaptations or changes to the digital world - there is no panacea that will remove all barriers for all people with any disability, of any kind, type or stage of deterioration or amelioration.  Stretching the metaphor further I wonder if at times this digital water-cycle, again like the real one, is polluted, that translucence as well as flotsam and jetsam in this ocean are the barriers - on the one hand the pollutants have to be removed - the barriers taken down - but at the same time, cleaner purer water, in the form a universal design that is simpler and usable would gradually cleanse some of system. Once again, a mirror to the real world responses, specialist schools and associations, say for those with dyslexia are blind or deaf, become an oasis or island in this digital system. 

‘Those not engaging with technologies or without access are getting left further and further behind. We need to be mindful that the egalitarian, liberal view of new technologies is a myth; power and dynamics remain, niches develop and evolve. Applications of metaphorical notions of ecology, culture and politics can help us better understand and deal with these complexities'. (Conole. 2011:410)


Cecez-Kecmanovic, Dubravka, and Webb.C (2000) "Towards a communicative model of collaborative web-mediated learning."Australian Journal of Educational Technology 16. 73-85. Towards a communicative model of collaborative web-mediated learning  (last accessed 20 Dec 2012) http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet16/cecez-kecmanovic.html

Hardman, J (2008) Researching pedagogy: an acitivty system approach Journal of Education, No. 45, 2008. PP65-95 (last accessed 20 Dec)  2012 http://joe.ukzn.ac.za/Libraries/No_45_Dec_2008/Researching_pedagogy_an_Activity_Theory_approach.sflb.ashx)

Engeström’s (1999) outline of three generations of activity theory (last accessed 20 Dec 2012) http://www.bath.ac.uk/research/liw/resources/Models%20and%20principles%20of%20Activity%20Theory.pdf

Engeström.Y (2008) From Teams to Knots: Activity-theoretical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work. Learning in doing: Social, Cognitive & Computational Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. Series Editor Emeritus. John Seely Brown.

Engeström.Y (2011) Learning by expanding: ten years after (last accessed 19 Dec 20-12) http://lchc.ucsd.edu/mca/Paper/Engestrom/expanding/intro.htm


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

Conole, G (2011) Designing for learning in a digital world. Last accessed 18 Dec 2012 http://www.slideshare.net/grainne/conole-keynote-icdesept28

Conole, G. and Oliver, M. (eds) 2007 Contemporary Perspectives on E-learning Research, Themes, Tensions and Impacts on Research. London, RoutledgeFalmer.

Cussins, A. (1992). Content, embodiment and objectivity: The theory of cognitive trails. Mind, 101, 651–688.

Engestrom (2008-04-30). From Teams to Knots (Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives) (p. 238). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.

Engeström, Y. (1987) Learning by Expanding: An Activity-theoretical Approach to Developmental Research. Helsinki: Orienta-Konsultit.

Engeström, Y. (1994). The working health center project: Materializing zones of proximal
development in a network of organizational learning. In T. Kauppinen & M. Lahtonen (Eds.) Action research in Finland. Helsinki: Ministry of Labour.

Engeström.Y (1999) Learning by expanding. Ten Years After. http://lchc.ucsd.edu/mca/Paper/Engestrom/expanding/intro.htm

Engeström.Y (2008) From Teams to Knots: Activity-theoretical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work. Learning in doing: Social, Cognitive & Computational Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. Series Editor Emeritus. John Seely Brown.

Griggs, R.E. (1985) 'A Storm of Ideas', reported in Training, 22, 66 (November)

Issroff, K. and Scanlon, E. (2002) Using technology in higher education: an Activity Theory perspective. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 18, 1, 77–83

Knorr-Cetina, K. (2003). From pipes to scopes: The flow architecture of financial markets. Distinktion, 7, 7–23.

Kuutti, K. (1996) Activity theory as a potential framework for human–computer interaction research. In B. Nardi (ed.) Context and Consciousness: Activity Theory and Human–Computer Interaction. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, pp. 17–44.

Leon’tev.A.N. (1978) Activity, consciousness, and personality. Englewood Cliffs. NJ. Prentice-Hall.

Moessenger, S (2011) Sylvia’s Study Blog (Last accessed 19 Dec 2012) http://sylviamoessinger.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/h809-reading-oliver-et-al-chapter-2-a3-6/

Phipps, L., Witt, N. and Kelly, B. (2005) Towards a pragmatic framework for accessible e-learning. Ariadne, 44. Online. Available HTTP: <http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/ issue44/ phipps/> (last accessed 19 Dec 2012).

Rheingold, H. (2002). Smart mobs: The next social revolution. Cambridge, MA: Perseus.

Ritchey, T. (2011) Wicked Problems - Social Messes: Decision support Modelling with Morphological Analysis.Springer.

Rittel.W.J., Webber.M.M. (1973) Dilemmas in a general theory of planning Policy Sciences, June 1973, Volume 4, Issue 1,

Seale, J. (2006) E-learning and Disability in Higher Education: Accessibility Research and Practice

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

Vygotsky.L.S. (1978) Mind in Society. The development of higher psychological process. Cambridge. MA.

Wikipedia (2012) Definition of 'Historicity' - (last accessed 19 Dec 2012) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity

Zerubavel, E. (1997). Social mindscapes: An invitation to cognitive sociology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.





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H810 - Navigation Tips for students with visual impairments

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 4 Jan 2013, 16:50


Fig.1. Google Docs help center - navigation

I was looking for a way to an an Umlaut to the name 'Engestrom' in Google Docs help but instead stumble upon something far more valuable in relation to access to e-learning for students with disabilities - navigation short cuts. These apply to how a person with sight impairment might move through a text and so, like basic web usability, informs on best practice when it comes to writing, proof reading and lay-out, i.e. editing with a reader with a visual impairment in mind.

Somehow the clear way the guide is laid out caused the penny to drop in a way that hasn't occurred in the last three months however many times I have observed, listened to, read about or tried to step into the shows of a student with a visual impairment.

Web usability recommends a way of laying out text that is logical, clear and suited to the screens we use to access content from the web. This logic of headings and multiple sub-headings, let alone plain English in relation to short sentences as well as use of paragraphs makes reading not only easier for those with no disability, but assists those with varies degrees of visual impairment as content is then better able to respond to standard tools of text enlargement and enhancement, but also of screen readers that work best when reading through text.

What assistive technology does, a control that doesn't require a mouse and keeps a manageable set of keys under the fingers rather than needing to run back and forth across the keyboard, is to reduce the above commands to actions that a visually impaired or blind person can then use to control their web viewing experience.

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H810 : Conflicts in an Activity System

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 13:23

Fig. 1 Seale (2008) chapter 12 on activity systems in relation to accessibility in e-learning as an Activity System

The six potential areas of conflict Seal identifies occur, from the Activity System, between:

  1. Objects and tools - if we agree that the tools currently available are weak (or too many of them, or too specialist or too expensive)
  2. Objects and division of labour - a fragmented division of labour that is pulling the different stakeholders apart and preventing them from working together to meet the objective.
  3. Community and division of labour - a contradiction could be perceived to exist between community and division of labour if the rules that the community develop divide labour in such a way as to mitigate against the objective of the activity being achieved
  4. Community and rules - a conflict with the community whether guidelines are seen as tools or rules. A contradiction may be perceived to occur between community and rules where the community cannot agree on the rules and how they should be applie
  5. Rules and subject - where the rules or guidelines are not specific to the object, or difficulties in interpreting the results having used tools. A contradiction may be perceived to occur between the rules and the subject where the rules are non-existent, weak or inconsistent and so not good enough to enable the users of the rules (subjects) to meet the objective of the activity.
  6. Tools and subject - If the subjects of an activity system are unable to use the tools in the way they were intended, then conflict or contradiction may occur.

There are a further 8 discussed tangetially in relation to the Activity System, some within individual nodes. In total the full list looks like this:

  1. The array of design and evaluation software applications
  2. The mastery of external devices and tools of labour activity (Naardi 1996)
  3. No rules of practive for use of that tool (Iscorft and Scanlon)
  4. Tools that are overly prescriptive (Phipps et al 2005)
  5. How do you choose a tool?
  6. The context in which tools are introduced (Seale, 2006:160)
  7. The array of guidelines and standards and lack of information on how to use these.
  8. Constraints caused by formal, informal and technical  rules and concentions of community (Seale, 2006:161)
  9. A framework for desscribing current practice both individual and social (Seale, 2006:160)
  10. More than one object (Kuutti, 1996)
  11. When different but conntected activities ahre an object or an artefact but place a very different emphasis on it (McAviia and Oliver, 2004)
  12. Conflict over who does what within 'Divisions of Labour'
  13. Novice or expert ... good thing or bad? The novice is more likely to be the innovator - if brought in from outside the system, while the expert in the system may be too set in the ways of the 'community'.
  14. Excuses about the lack of information. Steyaert (2005)

I like Seale's concluding remarks - Subject and object, object and community, subect and community - Contradiction in any or all of the relationships described in the previous section has the potential to threaten the central relationships between object and community, subject and object and subject and community.

And the over all thought:

‘Design for all’ probably requires a commitment to ‘design by all’.

According to Activity Theory, any or all of the contradictions will prevent accessible e-learning practice from developing and therefore accessible e-learning will not develop or progress unless these contradictions are resolved.

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Access to work

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 11:31

Access to work 

Site Improve 

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Design for everybody

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 11:33

Design for everybody from BBH with the voice of Stephen Hawking.




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H810 : Activity 32 Blogs on accessibility and disability in learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 4 Jan 2013, 19:02


Disability in business

Jonathan, who has a degenerative spinal condition which means he uses a wheelchair and has carers to assist him, has first hand experience of the challenges faced by people living with disabilities – especially in the business world. “I used to run multi-million pound companies and I’d go with some of my staff into meetings with corporate bank managers and they’d say to my staff, ‘it’s really good of you to bring a service user along’, and I’d say, ‘hang on, I’m the MD –  it’s my money!’ 

Disability Marketing


Michael Janger has a passionate interest in products and technologies that enable people with disabilities to enjoy a better quality of life, and works with businesses to effectively market and sell these products to the disability market.

Think Inclusive

I think there are two basic assumptions that you need in order support inclusion (in any context)

  1. All human beings are created equal (you know the American way) and deserve to be treated as such.
  2. All human beings have a desire to belong in a community and live, thrive and have a sense of purpose.

The important takeaway…when you assume people want to belong. Then is it our duty as educators, parents, and advocates to figure out how we can make that happen.

Institute of Community Inclusion

For over 40 years, the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) has worked to ensure that people with disabilities have the same opportunity to dream big, and make their dreams a fully included, integrated, and welcomed reality. ICI strives to create a world where all people with disabilities are welcome and fully included in valued roles wherever they go, whether a school, workplace, volunteer group, home, or any other part of the community. All of ICI's efforts stem from one core value: that people with disabilities are more of an expert than anyone else. Therefore, people with disabilities should have the same rights and controls and maintain lives based on their individual preferences, choices, and dreams.

Cerebral Palsy Career Builders


How to deal with the following:

  1. Bias
  2. Presumption
  3. Myth
  4. Skepticism
  5. Prejudice
  6. Discrimination
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H810 Activity 31.4 Benefits of mobile learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 14 Dec 2012, 05:49

Is learning support by text messaging mobile learning?

Must it be a smart-phone. I would have called taking an Apple Classic into the garden on an extension cable and using it in a cardboard box to shield it from the sun as mobility of some kind - indeed development of the use of laptops in the last 15 years has been mobile and in 1997 I shot a training video for the RAC on a roadside device called ‘hardbody’ that was a navigational tool to locate the breakdown, a database of parts, a diagnostic for fault finding and fixing and a way for customers to pay.

The prospects for and possibilities of mobile computing have been known for a long time.

Getting them into the hands of students has taken longer as prices have fallen and broadband made readily available.

Was a cassette on a Sony Walkman mobile learning, or more recently is something from iTunes U on an MP3 player mobile e-learning? Yes, surely if its function is educational or it is resource tailored for a specific module.

  1. Convenience and flexibility - the university in your pocket. Ditch the folders, files and print outs.
  2. Relevance - situated
  3. Learner control - mine (personalised Apps, choice of phone and case ...)
  4. Good use of 'dead time' - on the bus, train, passenger in car ... in bed, in front of TV, on the loo or in the bath.
  5. Fits many different learning styles - short burst or lengthier intense periods
  6. Improves social learning (i.e. Communicating with peers and experts)
  7. Encourages reflection - easy to take notes (audio as dictaphone or text)
  8. Easy evidence collection - photos and audio (screen grabs from online research), tag finds.
  9. Supported decision making
  10. Speedier remediation - instant
  11. Improved learner confidence
  12. Easily digestible learning - where 'chunked' though this should be a choice where content has been suitably prepared for web usability.
  13. Heightened engagement - feeds alerts that can be responded to in a timely fashion. Makes synchronous and quasi-synchronous forum feedback possible.
  14. Better planning for face-to-face - organiser, contactable 24/7 (almost)
  15. Great for induction - keeping in touch, easy to ask questions, familiar, universal and everyday.
  16. Elimination of technological barriers - basic, intuitive, commonplace.
  17. Designed once then delivered across multiple platforms - responsive design (using HTML 5)
  18. Easily trackable via wifi - and GPS
  19. Cost-effective build
  20. A means to recoup money
  21. Technology advances with Apps
  22. Technology advances with interface, voice command and other tools.
  23. Everything in one place, including TV, radio, podcasts, photogallery ...
  24. Assistive technology - add a micro-projector, wifi-keyboard, sync to other devices such as tablet, laptop and desktop, augmented learning ...
  25. Replacement technology - starting to replace money, already replacing cameras, MP3 players, address book, organiser, games console, remote control, torch, dictaphone ... pen and paper, art pad ...

(In part from Dr Chris Davies, Head of the e-learning research group, Oxford Prof. John Traxler, Prof. Of Mobile Learning (2011 )


(last accessed 10 Dec 2012)

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