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H809 Reflection on Block 1 - towards compliance for those with moderate severe asthma

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 11 Jun 2013, 11:16
The most straight forward of assignments has proved anything but ... not for how to write this 2000 word piece, that is straight forward, but rather committing to a subject, then narrowing down the theme, possible research question and then dig up some papers ... and not simply offer the lot, but give the five 'that say it all'. To pick five how many must you read, at least as abstracts. I made three false starts, even read a PhD thesis on blogging before deciding it is a minefield. I may like to blog but I no more want to research it for an OU assignment than sort out pebbles on Brighton Beach. Lifelogging, memory and neuroscience all interest me ... but are too big to get my head around in a few months - a few years perhaps. Looking at my notes I see I have papers also on augmented learning for field trips and museum visits. Then I returned to a platform that caught my eye three yesrs ago on H807 when I interviewed Dr. B. Price Kerfoot of Harvard Medical School on 'Spaced Education'. So far this system has been usef with doctors, to support their learning and decission making ... the next step will be patients. One of the humdingers here is 'compliance' - taking the medication you are prescribed if you have a chronic condition. What dawned on me this afternoon is that as a asthmatic I am the perfect patient - compliant to the nth degree. What surprised me is that such a large percentage of asthmatics are not. But with alleregies - a double-whammy of irritations, I ignore the nasal steroids and antehistemines almost completely. Compliant, and defiant in one go so just about canceeling the two out. But why? This is what fasciantes. You know you need to take something to avoid a return of the symptoms, but as there are no symptoms you stop taking the medication. Anyway, I am sifting through papers to set me straight and to offer some answers. If you have a moderately severe chronic condition and wish to share your medication regime or attitude please speak up - asthma, allergies, diabetes, epilepsy, other mental illnesses - chat on Skype? Meanwhile I checked my preventer inhaler - it was empty. I at least had a spare and will get a repeat prescription in tomorrow.
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If I coud see what is going on in there!

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This could surely be some kind of nueroscience research - my mind is going through hoops and will continue to do so while it figures out what the heck if going on. I have a contact lens in my left eye for close up and a lens in my right for distance. My mind will in time put to two pictures together in one. For the time being parts of my brain are being made to dance. This would surely show up on an fMRI scan - it should do - I can FEEL it.
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Why study the electric car if you goal is to understand motor transport?

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To study e-learning before studying learning is like coming to motorised transport via the electric car. Perhaps I need a decade in teaching.
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Moving on ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 11 Jun 2013, 11:18


Here in Lewes we shut the town centre down for a march as often as we can.

It all stems from 5th November. We had only been here a couple of months and we were enrolled in a Bonfire Society. That was 13 years ago.

The town also has a Moving on parade for all primary schools in the district, not just the town, but from outlying villages. The town centre is closed to traffic and kids, dressed up, carrying banners and whatnot on a theme, march through town and end it with a party in the Paddock - a large field, formerly part of the earthworks around the 11th century Lewes Castle.


It helps to make an occasion of something when we move on. We're rather good at it:

  • Christenings
  • Marriage
  • Death
  • Birthdays
  • Anniversaries
  • Graduation

I'm down for Brighton or will try to enroll in Versailles for my graduation. I skipped my first nearly three decades ago. I just didn't feel like moving on. I hadn't felt I'd had an education to justify the fuss. My fault, not theirs. I put in the hours and came out with an OK degree but that isn't why I'll remember my undergraduate years.

I should mark moving on, and away from this blog. It logs, day by day, and in the background countless pages of hidden notes. It has carried me through the Masters in Open & Distance Education.

H809, my bonus track, will mark the end.

For this reason I am migrating most of the content and the journey it records to an external blog.

My Mind Bursts

From time to time I'll post a note at the bottom of the page to say this is where it'll be from June.

My moving on.

By May, I'll also know if the next few years have been set up. We'll see. I may even be back at the OU in some capacity. I rather

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Loss of a Mother - woman have Woman's Hour, men have Top Gear.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 12 Mar 2013, 11:03

Woman also have 'Loose Women', surely the female version of 'Top Gear'. But do men have an equivalent of 'Woman's Hour' or are we supposed to get that from GQ or Esquire magazines sad

I don't make a point of listening to Woman's Hour, but as I'm at home and have done years on and off as househusband it becomes a regular feature of the day. The radio goes on in the kitchen and in the car. I need to be in one or the other.

Is 'Woman's Hour' a party broadcast for the female gender or fascinating issues presented in a radio magazine that mix topicality, with feature and fiction?

Actually it was this late Friday morning I was running out in the car to walk the dog on the South Downs.

Friday 8th March is one you need to download before it comes off air in a few days time.


Fig. 1 Listing on BBC Website - you've got 4 days within which to download this.


Topics covered:

  • Women Coaches -(worth keeping)
  • Alice Walker - author of the Color Purple (very worthwhile)
  • Vicki Price and the law
  • Women in parliament - could they job share?

The one that had me stop what I was doing ...

Loss of a mother

I'm the boy whose favourite place as an infant was on my Mum's hip and as I gew up on the kitchen counter learning to cook, taking her tuition as an art teacher (MA in Fine Art from University of Durham). Our parents split up when I was eight and she only remarried in her 60th year. She died a few months ago.


Fig. 2 Women's Hour, Friday 9th March 2013 A 43 minute programme.

On loss of Mothers - if you only have 12 minutes sping through to 00:30:00

What is the impact of losing a mother?
Alice Walker
What is happening here and why?

Paul Mcartney was 14 when his Mum died of a brain tumour. If he had a time machine he would go back and spend time with her.

A speaker Jane Tilly about her mother when she died when she was 17.

At significant transition moments, having no one to share it with.
A role model

The guests:

Maureen Fearon – Therapsit

Lucy Gannon (Playwright, television writer, plays, shortsand 'Soldier, Soldeir' and producer)

Lucy Gannon

  • Lucy's Mum died when she was eight.
  • Know who you are, what diseases you've had, so you lose some of your identity.
  • Children need to know that they are at the centre of someone's world so that they know they are
  • Your life is going on, try to get continuity.
  • You lose your place in the world – she was in care though.
  • Keep that child in the centre of the world they know.

Maureen Fearon

  • Her mum died when she was 29.
  • Look at the grandparents, look at the average, and she's going to be at least that = 89/90.
  • Deeply tearful because of trigger music.
  • That overwhelming,  'I want my Mum'.
  • Smells. Going through the tough times in life. Through challenging times that smell comes and floats away. When there is no smoke there. In our minds, or where it is.
  • Took 12 years of real pain, neurolinguistic exercise ... did it once and fixed.

The mention of how the mind brings back smells is intriguing.

Maureen Fearon is a therapist, not a neuroscientist. There is a phenomenon where we see people we love who we have just lost, it might be the end of a close relationship or the death of someone close - our mind sees them in other people. I relate to this idea of lucid reconstruction of specific smells.


Fig. 3. From 'Neuroscience for Dummies' - not as stupid as it sounds!

I can, give me a moment, smell the mothballs in my late grandmother's spare bedroom, and while she smoked them the Benson and Hedges cigarettes which surely made her knitting honk? Other smells I can call up include the silt and rotting fish heads of Beadnell Harbour in the 1960s ... and a Christmas tree, and Christmas Pudding, marshmallows roasted on an open fire, melting butter on toast with Old English Marmalade ... and our pet dog as a child, Morag the black labrador, wet and warm from being out in the rain ...


Fig. 4. Sheila Vernon (nee Wilson) 1931-2012 with her son Jonathan c1973/1972 ?

My Mum's parents where 83 and 96 when they died, so an average might have been 90?

She died a few months ago age 81. She had planned to beat the Queen Mum. We all thought she'd do so. But as my even later grandfather kept saying having reached 90, 'I don't mind when I go, I've had a good innings'. He was in his 97th year - we thought he'd make it to a hundred, but at trip to the Western Front to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Paschendaele where he had served as a machine gunner had left him ill (and heart broken).


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New ways of reading

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I'm trying something new, probably in breach of copyright, but if I keep it to myself where's the harm? But does it work? As I read a paper I freeze the page when I spot something I wish to note, crop this image then load this image into a Google Doc where I can add notes, or cross reference from other papers. I assemble my thoughts and those of others like digitial scraps. Currently treating myself to all that I can find related to asthma. I may not be an MD, but an MD doesn't have the MAODE and if there is one thing I've learnt these last three years, it is what I am not understand at all will in time become familiar.
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Are you asthmatic?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 11 Mar 2013, 08:11

I'm most interested in those who, like me, who have Moderate Persistent Asthma

Where you not taking medication regularly (or when they run out and you forget to get a new prescription ... I do too often) then the asthma symptoms would occur almost daily.

Your asthma severity is classified as moderate persistent asthma when:

  • You have asthma symptoms daily.

  • You wake up from your asthma more than one night per week, but not every night.

  • You use your rescue inhaler daily.

  • Your asthma moderately interferes with your daily activities.

With moderate persistent asthma, you will need daily asthma medication with anti-inflammatory properties, as well as a second medication.

You are able to gain control of your asthma with two medications, what we call the 'blue one' and the 'brown one'.

The brown one, the inhaled steroid, you take a couple of puffs in the morning and a couple at night.

The blue one, the reliever, or what in North America they call the 'rescue' inhaler, you take as required.

My interest is based on some research done in Brighton by Robert Horne 'Compliance, adherence, and concordance: implications for asthma treatment' makes for interesting reading.

30% of patients ignore the advice, don't bother with their 'brown one' and over use their 'blue one'. This group are far more likely to end up in hospital, develop further complications and dependencies on drugs, or even die.

In our family, my father's stubborn refusal to take his daily medication led to him having a major asthma attack, he was put on a nebuliser and injected steroids to keep him alive and as a result became diabetic.

So why don't people take their medication?

All down to a combination of personality and false perceptions about taking inhaled steriods. Nor does it help when invariably the weakest (Lord of the Flies) or the baddest (Casino Royale) are portrayed as asthmatic.


Horne, R (2006), 'Compliance, adherence, and concordance: implications for asthma treatment', Chest, 130, 1, pp. 65S-72s, CINAHL, EBSCOhost, (viewed 10 March 2013).

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Working in the clouds

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 4 May 2014, 08:52

Fig. 1. Study of Clouds, John Constable. Inscribed 31 Sept.r 10-11 O'Clock.

Constable did little else but paint the weather conditions from July through to Ocotber 1822, which is why curators can accurately say that the artist did this painting on the 1st October.

I've shared my frustrations with Cloudworks from the start of the OLDS MOOC 2013 ... and had some experience a year ago on H807 Innovations in E-learning ... so entered the cloud with a sense of dread.

I stuck at it and found some odd ways in.

What mattered was the contact with people I got to know - as they gave up it became inevitable that I would do so too, not least because I had more pressing matters. H809 a postgraduate module, partially produced by the same team as it comes from the Open University stable, but a very different beast.

More like getting on a bus with four to five stops a week.

A weekend for an assignment every five weeks and a longer sojourn to produce a short dissertation at the end. Four tutors groups each with less than sixteen people in each.

I liken my Cloudworks experience to Freshers' Fair ... every day of the week.

Every time I came in I wondered around getting interested in what other people were doing, sometimes landing their by mistake. So a Fresher's Fair with some 12 entry doors on several floors with the people behind each stall mostly changing too. Your brain gets tired of the overload, the lack of landscape and in this sense 'Cloudscape' is the right term, for the wrong reasons. A 'Freshers' Fair' is when students invite the entire new intake at a university to come and see what societies are on offer - imagine the eqivalent of several village halls, with stalls manned by students, offereing everything from ballroom dancing to nueuroscience, Pooh Sticks Society to the Conservative Association, Bikers to Chess.

I took some pictures of this Constable painting 'Study of Clouds' in the Ashmolean Museum when I was in Oxford on Friday.

What was I doing in Oxford. Hankering after 'the real thing' - a chance to meet and talk with some people in the flesh, this at an talk on Virtual Worlds in Japanese at the Centre of Social and Cultural Anthropology hosted by the Oxford Internet Institute.

After a while, all this online stuff has you eager to meet likeminds in person.

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Objects as a point of study

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 10 Mar 2013, 23:46


Elias Asmole believed that knowlege could be gained through the study of objects and so gave his collection to start a museum in Oxford in 1677. When students got tired of wordsin the myriad of libraries acorss the city they could come here.

I need a few days in the Ashmolean and a few weeks to savour it, helped by a hundred 'grabs' with the iPad as I went around. Visitors were asked to name the 20 things to see if you had little time - I'd go for the maps and timelines and collections such as these that cover nearly 1500 years in a few coins and notes. Here an Anglo Saxon, then a Mercian Penny. Alfred the Great, William the Conqueror and Edward III. Henry VII, Edward IV and Elizabeth I.

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Worked with day dreams

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Day dreams are easier - you wake up and you have the energy and time to write it down. All the papers I am reading I send to the iPad. I got reading, then gently closed the iPad and slept. I filed and sorted papers in the dream. If this sounds like a nightmare then I should add that they were each like a highly starched duvet. The 'clarity' came later walking the dog. Doing something else and working with dreams are valid techniques by the way.
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OU Library and a developing understanding of why too many asthmatics don't bother to take their prescribed medicines.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 11 Jun 2013, 11:23

I will never tire from serving my curiosity when I entre the OU Online Library. I am often lost for weeks at a time, dipping into everything that catches my eye, reading some of if all the way through, following up further leads, then further leads until I find I've either circumnavigated the globe, dropped back a century or more or am spinning circles in a slow, spiraling descent through a single authors previous thinking.

I don't need a ball of thread to help me find my way out and there's no Minotaur to slay at the centre.

All I hate is a underpowered laptop and a rubbish internet connection.

Currently my interest is reseach on compliance, noncompliance, adherence and coherence in use of asthma drugs. I should know, I am one. My compliance is excellent. One asthma attack in my teens and I do everything to the letter. I fail to understand how and why 30% of people with my condition end up hospitalised or dead. The reading is extraordinarily diverse, bringing it down to the person, their identity with the condition and unwillingness to take a couple of puffs on an inhaler morning and night - when surely they are in and out of the bathroom anyway?

If you know any asthmatics like this please put them in touch or send them to my blog where I will add notes.

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Mind, body and soul

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 7 Mar 2013, 08:55


Fig. 1. Looks a like a good read

I'm starting to read papers on neuroscience that result on my starting to use my hands and fingers as I read, even reading and re-reading phrases and sentences. What is going on here?

If I understand it correctly there is, because of the complexity of connections between neurones, a relationship with many parts of the brain simultaneously, some common to us all, some, amongst the millions of links, unique to us. Each neuron is connected to 10,000 others. To form a memory some 15 parts of the brain are involved. It is situated, much of it we are not aware of. Come to think of it, while I was concentrating I got cramp in my bum and right thigh perched as I am on a hard kitchen chair, and the lingering after taste of the cup of coffee I drank 45 minutes ago. I can hear the kitchen clock ticking - though most of the time it is silent (to my mind), and the dog just sighed.

Does it matter that my fingers are tapping away at a keyboard?

Though second-nature, touch-typing it still occupies my arms and hands and fingers which may otherwise be animated were I talking. I am talking, in my head. The stream of consciousness is almost audible.

What would happen where I to use a voice recorder and speak my thoughts instead?

By engaging my limbs and voice would my thinking process improve and would the creation of something to remember be all the stronger.

I'm getting pins and needles/cramp in my right leg. Aaaaaaaaaaagh! Party over.

The question posed is often 'what's going on in there?' refering to the brain. Should the question simpley be 'what's going on?'

Learning & Memory

My eyesight is shifting. In the space of six months of moved to reading glasses. Now my normal glasses are no good either for reading or distance. Contacts are no use either. As a consequence I'm getting new glasses for middle distance and driving. The solution with the contact lenses is more intriguing.

To correct for astigmatism and near or short sightedness I am going to have a one lens in one eye to deal with the astigmatism and a different lens to deal with the short sightedness in the other. My mind will take the information from both and ... eventually, create something that is sharp close up and at a distance. This has me thinking about what it is that we see, NOT a movie or video playing out on our retina, but rather an assemblage of meaning and associations formed in the brain.

I will try these lenses and hang around, wander the shops, then return. I am advised that I may feel and appear drunk. I can understand why. I could well describe being drunk as trying to navigate down a path with a microscope in one hand and a telescope in the other while looking through both. I feel nauseous just thinking about it.

So 'stuff' is going on in the brain. These days the activity resulting in the brain finguring something out can, in some instance and to some degree, be seen. Might I have an fMRI scan before the appointment with the optician? Might I then have a series of further scans to follow this 're-wiring' process.

I need to be careful here, the wrong metaphor, however much it helps with understanding may also lead to misunderstanding. Our brain is organic, there are electro-chemical processes going on, but if I am correct there is no 're-wiring' as such, the connections have largely existed since birth and are simply activated and reinforced?

Any neuroscientists out there willing to engage with a lay person?

What would observing this process of unconscious learning tells us about the process of learning? And is it that unconscious if am I am aware of the sensations that have to be overcome to set me right?

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H809: A question of blogging

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 20 Oct 2014, 12:20

Fig.1. Why blog?

A) What is the research trying to find out; what questions is it trying to answer?

B) How will the proposed research answer the questions?

C) Why is this research worth doing? Punch (2006:05/60)

My interest and participation in blogging is obvious. I am exploring other subjects to research, but inevitably come back to this. There are fields where blogging works, and others where it does not.

Do you think that students who keep a blog learn more?

Retain more? And so get more from their undergraduate studies?

Are certain subjects more appropriate for this where writing and digital literacies are being developed?

Such as:

  • journalism,
  • corporate communications,
  • advertising (social media and copywriting)
  • creative writing and even postgraduate research?

Blogs also mean generating, collecting and curating images and video

What role do these play in personal and professional writing?
What if it is made compulsary, a graded component of all or part of a module you are taking?

What about those in the visual arts such as designers and art directors, who create concept boards for development purposes, or for architects and fashion designers, as well as  in the performing arts such as actors and directors?

Might those following vocational subjects such as medicine or law set in train a way to enhance a life of learning?

Could blogs be peer graded successfully?

What benefits do you get from reading or contributing to another persons blog?

Is it less a blog and more of a publication when others contribute and the 'blog' carries advertising and is available to read only through subscription?

What do we learn by thinking of the origins of blogging as keeping a diary, log or journal, such as the private diary, journey log in a yacht, or writers journal?

Is it just electronic paper?

'Tell the reader what QQ the researcher is trying to answer, or what questions will initiate the inquiry in an unfolding study.' Punch (2006: 65)

Another way to gather your thoughts and ideas?

When is a blog an e- portfolio? What does it reveal about the person if the blog is shared?

Are like-minds attracted to each other?

What are the copyright and other legal issues? 

How honest or revealing should one be? Are the concerns about exposure and disclosure valid?

It's not what you remember about yourself that is of concern, but what you remember about other people. What they did, who they were with ...

When does truth turn into fiction and does it matter if the reader cannot tell and isn't told?

What about plagiarism?

What is the perspective behind the research?

What is the role of theory?

What is the prestructured versus unfolding research?

What is the relevant literature?

Will the study be quantitative, qualitative or both? Punch (2006:60)

'The proposal should indicate the significance of the proposed study. Synonyms for 'significance' here might be justification, importance, contribution or intended outcomes of the study.' Punch (2006: 68)



From Wikipeadia

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Uta Frith - the brain as a garden, full of the most interesting, different things ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 1 Mar 2013, 15:50


Fig.1. My brother's 'garden' for which he won a school prize.

'Her metaphor for the brain is that of a garden, that's full of the most interesting,  different things that have to be constantly cultivated and constantly checked' Kirsty Young (01:24 into transmission, BBC 2013)

This morning I caught Professor Uta Frith of UCL on Desert Island Discs for the second time - this time round I paid closer attention.

I then went to the BBC website and took notes.

Having recently completed H810 Accessible Online Learning and of course interested in educaiton, this offers insights on what studying autism and dyslexia tells us about the human mind.

There's more in another BBC broadcast - Uta Frith interviewed for the BBC's Life Scientific - Broadcast 6 Dec 2011 accessed 1st March 2013 - and available by the way until January 2099 should you not be able to find time and want your dyslexic grandchildren to listen.

The difference in how each of us see the world.

'We learn by taking different perspectives – something about ourselves which we otherwise would have never known'. Uta Frith

'Take what's given to you and make the best of it, but of course the cultivation is key to all of these things, so culture in our lives, learning from other people ... these are the really, really important things'. UF

We may all have some of this in us.

Genetic factors matter.

'How we are raised is a myth. It is not right. It has been so very harmful. It is a illusion to think that doing the right things, for example that you get from books, that you can change things.'

Then from BBC's Life Scientific

'A passionate advocate of neuroscience and how its findings can be used in the classroom to improve learning. She hopes that eventually neuroscience will inform education in the same way that anatomy informs medicine'. (01:35 in, BBC 2013)

Wanting knowledge of the brain to inform education the way knowledge of the body informs medicine.

From the UCL pages

Professor Uta Frith is best known for her research on autism spectrum disorders.

Her book, Autism, Explaining the Enigma (1989) has been translated into many languages. She was one of the initiators of the study of Asperger's Syndrome in the UK and her work on reading development, spelling and dyslexia has been highly influential.

Throughout her career she has been developing a neuro-cognitive approach to developmental disorders.

In particular, she has investigated specific cognitive processes and their failure in autism and dyslexia.

Her aim is to discover the underlying cognitive causes of these disorders and to link them to behavioural symptoms as well as to brain systems. She aims to make this research relevant to the education of people with development disorders and to contribute to a better quality of their everyday life.

Uta Frith on YouTube on early years, then on dyslexia


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Just about swimming in the digital ocean

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 19 Nov 2013, 09:33

I’ve described it as a digital ocean often enough so I shouldn’t have been surprised when I found myself in it. That was a couple of nights ago. Writing to a colleague with a mixture of excitement and concern I told them why they had to take an interest in the impact Web 2.0 would have and was having on the Pharmaceutical Industry – she works in medical market research interviewing then analysing qualitative data and writing reports.

I had written the sentence, ‘do you want to get on your surface board or get washed out in the rip current when I visualised myself back in this dream. I can use lucid dreams deliberately to help me dwell on matters, or just for the fun of it.

I know that the dream, its location and events, are a projection of how I feel about an issue. After a couple of months of total immersion in Web 2.0 reading and coursework and trying to plan a long term future in this environment I started to find myself in the water.

I got a sense of both nerves and excitement at being under the breaking waves but preferred to get out beyond them. It as a shock to find myself heading down the coast and looking inland for all intense and purposes as if from a bus window that was on its way. My feelings and views on this is to be adequately prepared – for the water fit and with a surf board, even with something to wave to get the lifeguard’s attention. And that being in the breaking waves might be better still. This is my digital landscape visualised. The flotsam and jetsam of old practices get washed away or left on the shore.

The ‘players’ are on this breaking edge, where the ocean makes landfall.

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H809 : Research questions in a spider-map

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 13 Nov 2014, 10:21

Had I known what I know now ... three years ago, perhaps I would have taken more care about what I read. From three weeks of H809 I've created this 'spider map' to use as I read anything new. It runs from Structure in a clockwise direction through to Implications. I've only just counted the number of 'issues' - 12 is a coincidence. The reality so far is that 8 will do it, 12 if I want to be thorough and probably just a few of these if I am going to look at title, abstract, authors. Should some of these be merged? In time these should become automatic. 'Paradigms' throws me. I'm not hot on 'concepts' or 'frameworks' either. All the more reason to be on H809!

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Driving learning for students of Public Relations through blogging

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 3 Mar 2013, 10:30

Driving learning through blogging: Students’ perceptions of a reading journal blog assessment task. (2007/2008)
Melanie James

I'm reading these papers for a few reasons:

  • part of H809 - getting my head around how research is conducted
  • my interest in blogging as more than verbal jamming (my take on it)
  • its value or otherwise as a student learning experience
  • its value or otherwise in a business context
  • this paper as its author came out of 'industry' to work in academia - my hoped for career shift.
  • whether there's PhD research in here somewhere.

(I currently think not based on the papers I have read and a PhD thesis on blogging in business - to ill defined, too broad, nothing that orginal to put online what some people may have put in a diary/journal, gets confused with internal communications, PR and journalism. Is NOT an effective means of knowledge transfer. I'd prefer the expert view - in person. Perhaps where the skill of this loose kind of writing is under scrutiny - stream of consciousness as a writing style).

The uses are specific. The greater value is with those for whom writing forms a part of their career plan.

So journalism, creative writing, PR, communications and social media ... advertising too. As a platform to support a foundation course it might be used to develop academic writing skills. Three years ago I pulled out my 1999 copy of 'How to study' from the OU.

My notes on this are interesting for two reasons

  • noting how the book is laid out like a web page (it is of course the web page than still is a poor copy of the printed word)
  • the pertinence of the advice to someone studying a undergraduate and graduate level
  • the style of writing, that feels like it comes from the 1950s.

'After we've read, heard and talked about a topic, our minds are awash with ideas, impressions and chunks of information. But we never really get to grips with this experience until we try to write down our own version of it. Making notes is of some help, of course. But there is nothing like the writing of an essay to make us question our ideas, weigh up our impressions, sort out what information is relevant adn what is not - and, above all, come up with a reasoned viewpoint on the topic that we can feel it our own'. (Rowntree. p. 170 1999)

Problem/Opportunities Students who fail to engage with the required course readings will be silent and disengaged. This can have a negative impact across all students.

Students who don’t engage with the technology, such as blogging, will be at a disadvantage as PR in the future will include the use of Web based technologies.
Structure Questionnaire taken alongside end of module questionnaires taken by each cohort.
Questions Does this type of  assessment task increase student engagement with required course
Does the assessment task have wider application than in public relations courses?
Does this facilitate the development of students’ technical skills in using new media?
Setting University of Newcastle, Australia
First and Second year Public Relations undergraduates.
Author Dr. Melanie James, PhD (UoN), Grad.Cert. PTT (UoN), MA Journalism (UTS), BA Communication (Hons) (UTS), MPRIA joined the School of Design, Communication and IT at the University of Newcastle in November 2006 after working in senior management roles in strategic communication, government communication, public relations and marketing communication.
Research Research on teaching and assessment. (Rowntree 1971, Boud, 1988)
Methods A formal survey was undertaken in Semester Two to evaluate the students’ perceptions of the reading journal blog assessment task and to identify students’ opinions as to the strengths and weaknesses of the two specific aims of the assessment task. (James 2007 p. 2 )

The first aim was measured by asking whether they felt the task contributed to their learning about public relations at an introductory level through engagement with the course readings and the second aim was measured by asking whether they felt the assignment had facilitated their development of technical skills in blogging.

The survey questionnaire included 12 Likert-type items which asked for levels of agreement-disagreement with statements relating to the reading journal blog assessment task.
Partial triangulation as similar/same questionnaire used for the course as a whole?

Multichoice type online survey completed anonymously.
Findings Only a minority of students commented on other students’ blogs even though it was clearly indicated on the grading criteria that it had the potential to earn the student more marks. (James. p. 5 2007)

From a lecturer’s perspective, the level of engagement with the assessment task in particular, the coursework projects generally, and the in-class discussion was extremely satisfactory. (James. p. 6.  2007)

The overall standard of the final course group project was high, and although not directly comparable with previous years’ results, average grades for the course were higher. (James. p. 7. 2007)

Nearly three-quarters of respondents (71%) agreed that the blogging assessment task tied in well with the class exercises and other assessment tasks (RQ6). (James. p. 11. 2009)
Paradigms A constructivist approach to learning – learners construct contextual meaning rather
than students predominantly being passive receivers of information (Anderson, Krathwohl, Airasian, Cruikshank, Mayer & Pintrich, 2001).

Combining a learning journal with a blog was seen as a way to design an assessment task that responded to both identified challenges and would also foster the active engagement and personal investment factors that Angelo (1995, cited in Connor-Greene, 2000), considers crucial to effective teaching. (James p. 4. 2007)
Limitations Academics unclear of the marking criteria.
Students not familiar with blogging so needed more setup time.
Academic integrity of the content.
61% responded to the survey.
Implications Ways to better design the course.
Use of sentence leads to start the blog.
Use of sentence leads to comment on other people’s blogs.

PR students will need to be able to set up, maintain and contribute to blogs and make decisions about whether such tactics should be adopted in campaigns (Alexander, 2004; McAllister and Taylor, 2007).

This reads like second guessing the way the world has gone - but sucessful social media PR agencies do little else but blog for their clients, some do reputation management seeing what the social media are saying.

Reading to learn has long been a feature of higher education (Guthrie, 1982, cited in Maclellan, 1997).

For all the highfalutin e-learning interactive stuff how much do postgraduates, let alone undergraduates, spend reading? If you study law how else do you engage with the content?

Enthusiasm for the new from academics. “blogs have the potential, at least, to be a truly transformational technology in that they provide students with a high level of autonomy while simultaneously providing opportunity for greater interaction with peers” (Williams & Jacobs, 2004, p. 232).

It must be human nature to respon in one of two ways to anything new - love it or hate it. Academic research can turn revolution or pending doom into the mundane.

'As expected from the experiences of students in the first iteration of the assessment task, RQ4 and RQ5 clearly indicated that the majority of the respondents were inexperienced with both blogging and posting comments to existing blogs'. (James, p. 10. 2009) So much for Prensky, Oblinger et al and the ‘digital natives’ - far from being eager and skilled online, they are nonplussed.

More than two thirds (67%) of respondents indicated they had not had experience with blogging before the course, and 80% disagreed with the statement “posting comments on other people’s blogs was something I’d done regularly prior to doing this course”. James, p. 11. 2009)

So much for Prensky, Oblinger et al and the ‘digital natives’ nonsense - far from being eager and skilled online, they are nonplussed.


Alexander, D. (2004). Changing the public relations curriculum: A new challenge for educators. PRism 2. Retrieved 24th April, 2007, from http://praxis.massey.ac.nz/fileadmin/Praxis/Files/Journal_Files/Issue2/Alexander.pdf

Anderson, L., Krathwohl, D., Airasian, P., Cruikshank, K., Mayer, R., & Pintrich, P. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives (AbridgedEd.). New York: Longman.

Boud, D. (1988). Developing student autonomy in learning (2nd ed). New York: Kogan Page.

Connor-Greene, P. (2000). Making connections: Evaluating the effectiveness of journal writing in enhancing student learning.Teaching of Psychology, 27, 44-46.

James, M.B. (2008), 'Driving learning through blogging: Students? perceptions of a reading journal blog assessment task', Prism, 5 1-12 (2008) [C1] (accessed 27 Feb 2013 http://hdl.handle.net/1959.13/38338 )

McAllister, S. & Taylor, M. (2007). Community college web sites as tools for fostering dialogue. Public Relations Review, 33, 230-232.

Maclellan, E. (1997). Reading to learn. Studies in Higher Education, 22, 277-288

Prensky, M (2001) Digital natives and digital immigrants. 

Rowntree, D (1999) How to learn to study.

Williams, J. & Jacobs, J. (2004) Exploring the use of blogs as learning spaces in the higher education sector. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 20(2), 232-247.


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Why Blog? Research suggests its only value might be to the author

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 28 Feb 2013, 09:59

Exploring students’ understanding of how blogs and blogging can support distance learning in Higher Education (2007) Kerawalla, Minocha, Conole, Kirkup, Schencks and Sclater.

Based on this research blogging is very clearly NOT of interest to the majority of students, NOR is it likely to be of value to them for collaborative learning. There may be value in blogging for your own sake - aggregating content in one place.

(Research on using blogging with students of Public Relations gives a far more favourable response ... I would suspect that this would apply to courses on journalism and creative writing i.e. use the medium that is appropriate for those on specific courses).

This is a study of OU students. A more promisng, and appropriate study I am looking at concerns PR students who a) need to develop their writing skills b) need to understand what blogging is all about.

The greatest value I have got from this self-inflicted exercise is to deconstruct the research that was undertaken should I wish to undertake research of this ilk myself. Can I fault the research?

What do you think?

Problem Does blogging support student in their learning or not?
Are educators perceptions of the positive uses of blogging for learning borne out by the perceptions of and uses of blogging by students?
Questions QQ Designed to ascertain their level of experience of blogs and to gather their opinions about how blogs (and other tools) could support their learning.

The research questions we sought to answer were as follows:

1) What degree of blogging experience do students have?
2) Do students want to have blogging as part of their course?
3) In what ways do students think blogging is (not) a useful learning tool?
4) Is there a disparity between what course designers think blogging is useful for, or would like blogging to be used for, and students’ opinions of usefulness?
Setting Online students at the OU
Survey of 795 student and course designers
Authors ‘Enthusiastic’ OU IETT Academics
Previous research O’Reilly 2005, Sade 2007, Weller 2007 - literature search, previous research …
Methods Qualitative - explorative/iterative rather than set

All questions required students to select their response by clicking on a radio button, (e.g. ‘yes’ or ‘no’, or Likert scales such as ‘not at all’, ‘slightly’, ‘in-between/no opinion’, fairly’, or ‘very much’). (Kerawalla et al. p. 6. 2007) + an open question for expanded thoughts.

Interviews with course designers - Interview questions were designed to address the following areas: the rationale for introducing blogs, whether blog content would be assessed, whether blogging was compulsory, uptake levels and whether there were any plans to evaluate the success of blogging activities.

- extract, collate and compare.


Analysis - The survey generated both quantitative and qualitative data.

SPSS Analysis
Manual coding of responses
Coding of responses
  • Affordances of blogs not taken up, support meaning making, (Fiedler, 2003)
  • reduce sense of isolation (Dickey 2004).
  • knowledge communities (eg Oravec 2003).

i.e. Not everything they’re cracked up to be.

Krause (2004) reports haphazard contributions to blogs by his students, minimal communication between them, and found that posts demonstrated poor quality reflection upon the course materials.

Williams and Jacobs (2004) introduced blogs to MBA students and although he reports overall success, he encountered problems with poor compliance as, for example 33% of the students thought they had nothing valuable to say in their blog.

Homik and Melis (2006) report only minimal compliance to meet assessment requirements and that students stopped blogging at the end of their course. Other issues include:

  • students plagiarising from each others’ blogs
  • the need for students to have developed skills in choosing which hyperlinks to include in their blog (e.g. Oravec, 2003)
  • an ability to manage the tension between publishing private thoughts in a public space (Mortensen and Walker, 2002).

It appears that the ideals of educators can be difficult to implement in practice. (Kerawalla et al. p. 5. 2007)
Paradigms A cultural psychological approach to our research that proposes that learning is a social activity that is situated and mediated by tools that fundamentally shape the nature of that activity (e.g. Cole, 1996, Wertsch, 1991 and Vygotsky, 1979).
Limitations Expectations about sharing, enthusiasm for the genre …definition of blog (see e-portfolio and wiki), journalism …. hard to define (Boyd, 2006).

They mean different things to different people. Uses to collate resources (portfolio) (Huann, John and Yuen, 2005) , share materials and opinions .. (Williams and Jacobs, 2004).
Implications Guidelines, informs design
  • 53.3% of students had read a blog
  • only 8% of students had their own blog
  • 17.3% had commented on other people’s blogs
  • 23% of students thought that the commenting feature on blogs is ‘slightly’ or ‘not at all’ useful,
  • 42% had ‘no opinion’
  • 35% thought that commenting is ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ useful.
  • only 18% said that they thought blogs would be ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ useful.
  • of those who blog only 205 of these thought blogs would be ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ useful.

Students were asked ‘how much would you like to use a blog provided by the OU as part of your studies?’

35%  ‘not at all’
13% said ‘slightly’
34% had ‘no opinion’,
12% said ‘fairly’
6% responded ‘very much’

Students were asked ‘how much would you like to use a blog provided by the OU for personal use?’.

52.6% said ‘not at all’
8.7% said ‘slightly’
28.3% had ‘no opinion’
8% said ‘fairly’
2.7% responded ‘very much’.

Chi-square analyses

Examination of the observed and expected frequencies for this data suggests that in both cases, there is a relationship between not seeing a role for blogs and not wanting greater use of conferencing.
Supporting findings that when given a choice between classroom based learning or e-learning those who have a choice are equally satisfied by what they get.

All of the positive responses refer to the students’ own (potential) study blog. (Kerawalla et al. p. 7 2007) Others use their blog as a repository. Few saw the benefits of linking or using a blog to for reflection and developing ideas.

Responses to the question ‘would you like a blog provided by the OU to support your studies?’ reveal that there is a profound lack of enthusiasm (from 82% of the sample) for blogging as part of courses.

Later this year, we plan to explore PhD blogs. This variety and combination of methods will enable us to gather different perspectives and to triangulate our findings. (Kerawalla et al. p. 7 2007)


Cole, M. (1996) Cultural Psychology. Camb. Mass: The Belnap Press of Harvard University Press.

Kerawalla, Lucinda; Minocha, Shailey; Conole, Grainne; Kirkup, Gill; Schencks, Mat and Sclater, Niall (2007). Exploring students’ understanding of how blogs and blogging can support distance learning in Higher Education. In: ALT-C 2007: Beyond Control: Association of Learning Technologies Conference, 4-6 September 2007, Nottingham, UK.

Vygotsky, (1979) Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. M. Cole M, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner and E. Souberman (eds and trans). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wertsch, J (1991) A sociocultural approach to socially shared cognition. In L.Resnick, J. Levine and S. Teasley (eds), Perspectives on Socially Shared Cognition, Washington: American Psychological Association.




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H809 Reflecting on frameworks (Activity 3.8)

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 13 Nov 2014, 10:20

In the light of the podcast and this week’s work, consider how you might revise the way in which you are making notes on studies. Do the questions from Activity 1.4 need elaborating?

Look back at Reading 1 and consider the questions that were asked in that research. Do you think they represent a dominant ‘paradigm’ for research in any particular period? Are the research questions and methods still relevant today?

My response

Questions : what research questions are being addressed?
Setting : what is the sector and setting?
Concepts : what theories, concepts and key terms are being used?
Methods : what methods if data collection and analysis are used?
Findings : what did this research find out?
Limitations : what are the limitations of the methods used?
Implications : what are the implications (if any) for practice, policy or further education?

1) I will still ask, what was the problem? What is the hypothesis? I may ask why this research is being carried. I will certainly look at who the authors are, how the research is funded and the methods used.
2) There's more to setting than a name and an address for where and when something took place. It matters and helps to know the context, the time, people and environment.
3) They may only be noticed if they are unusual or controversial, but there will be reasons why a certain theory or concept is used. This will put a slant on the research, because of the choices made by the authors, the choices that are current and appropriate and whether they have been used before and what the conclusions were then. Activity Theory, for example, is going through changes, Diffusion of Innovation theory transmogrified with the idea of a ‘chasm’. Activity Theory is becoming ‘Cultural Historical’
4) Methods are taking advantage of computers to gather and analyse data, including 'big data' in new and revealing ways.
5) There is inertia of approaches and adopting new technologies, even a bias towards conformity and 'old ways' of doing things which is how and why the breakthroughs and disruption tends to come from outside.
6) The implications are for HE and schools to try to do what industry has been doing for the last 20 years – to embrace change as a constant to be embraced, rather than as a rare occurrence to be resisted. New ways of doing things, new ways if undertaking research, new ways of analysing and sharing the data and outcomes.
7) Keep an open mind. Have a set of questions that require a comprehensive view and be prepared to be a magpie - to think outside these parameters in terms of scope, depth and spread – so cross disciplinary, historic as well as the future.

I can see if you go in armed with a list of forensic questions you could get bogged down, in particular it is just another reason to lose the sense of narrative in a piece of research.

Which reminds me of an ancient OU Text called 'How to Read' or was it 'How to study?' Anyway, the idea from Richard Northridge (I think) was that you read a piece of text three times: skim read to get the gist of what is going on, the 'landscape' as it were, read a second time taking notes and then a third, more surgical read extracting what you want and being critical where criticism is due - in the light of your own interests.

Jo Neil (26th Feb, H809 Student Forum) suggested that when creating a framework for reviewing research papers thought should be given to:

  • Structure of the research - imposed or emergent
  • Existing research in this area
  • What is the methodology/philosophy background
  • What frameworks?
  • Terminology - are the questions relevant
  • Motives
  • What research does it build on/contribute to

And my response:

I am struck by the dichotomy between 'imposed or emergent'.

I wonder, my reading, if you are saying 'traditional' or 'emergent'. I don't supposed traditional or imposed are any the less valid, just choices alongside the 'emergent' that have to be made.

Just as the old structures are going into meltdown, becoming transparent, fluid and available to all courtesy of Web 2.0 so all manner of approaches need to change to keep up.

Further down the line the entire academic publishing route is under scrutiny: academics and those who ought to be influenced by these papers aren't reading them - they prefer to speak directly to experts/authors where they can; journals take too long to publish in a rapidly changing environment; institutions are fed up with paying academic publishers and authors are fed up of the current necessity of giving up copyrights/IP (varies), volunteering their content when it isn't necessarily adding to their reputation or career anyway.

This all comes back to your single word  - emergent.

In commercial e-learning at the micro scale real-time student analytics, monitoring progress, tailoring content, managing a learning 'career' is producing a new level of detail and immediacy to research while at the macro scale 'Big Data' is able to isolate factors that would have gone unnoticed with smaller student numbers. This in turn enables finer fine tuning of a module or course.

The old manufacturing paradigms of incremental and evolutionary change, where everything is bolted down and would have to be demolished in order to allow change and over. Modules created in a digital environment or ecosystem need to be seen to be growing and changing all the time and institutions should reflect this and come in like gardeners with bamboo canes (scaffolding), nutrients (social learning and student support) and pruning shears - cutting out the dead growth and guiding this 'organic thing' in the desirable direction.

Methodologies and Frameworks are were I need to do some work.

I need to get the terms, definitions and explanations firmly in my mind or in a table. Like a deck of cards, or a set of choices, or herbs in the kitchen from which I can make an informed choice. To use the cooking metaphor I am at the minute inclined to stick everything in because I know no better! Which is of course why I am on H809.

I don't question the importance of knowing what research has gone before and what research it contributes to - building on the shoulders of giants and all that, though, given this 'emergent' field we are entering a transitioning period.

Related to some thoughts above, the technology permits the author to cite far more that they feel has touched or is touching upon their thinking. This will influence how a report is written as we must all now have examples where in any sentence or paragraph more of the text might be taken up with references than it is with the line of thought. Whilst the references need to be there, within reason, there are other ways I've seen of doing it. For example, numbering references like footnotes and giving them in chronological rather than alphabetic order at the end of the text. This 'system' probably has a name.

Relevance of questions too - that they are pertinent, of the study, not imposed on it. My feeling is that considered choice of the questions is crucial. Knowing the right question(s) to ask is a fundamental technique or approach in business consultancy where intractable problems need to be resolved ... the answer does lie in asking the right question in the first place.

And 'motives' as well 'motivation'.

This isn't to be cynical, but research has to be funded and institutions look for academics who attract or can secure grants. The grant making bodies in turn have their own criteria and agendas. Are there no 'fads' here. There was something I was reading recently where the authors refer back to the requirements or stipulations of the funding body - not a negative view, just a statement or re-statement of the parameters that institution had set so that readers could decide ok a) there is further research to be done beyond these parameters c) the research was undertaken under these conditions.

As for motivation, it matters why we/they the authors are doing the research. I enjoy the opportunity to hear an academic present their findings as you then get a sense of what their motivations are ... because of a virtuous, altruistic love of the topic, to get a paper published - another one notched up, to move on (another institution is more suited, or attractive) ... and the commercial potential of going into an agency or client, or starting your own operation. Or because they like being centre stage.

Am I being unfairly cynical here? Everyone has a motive of some kind or another. Should these motives be apparent in the research - probably not, which is where, perhaps, fairly or unfairly, some of us may have been judgmental about the Hiltz paper (I was).

I keep finding myself reading article and books on e-learning and the Internet written by Journalists.

They are another breed entirely. Too often the desire to sensationalise to get an article and books sold produces a plausible package that convinces thousands but on close inspection is either highly dubious, 'thin' and speculative or has extracted only excerpts from research to support their hypothesis. Yet they get the message out in a way that must academics and institutions repeatedly fail to do.

From which I conclude - greater scrutiny is required over what I read. I've got to ditch an indulgence that was encourage two decades ago when I was studying Francois Truffaut the French filmmaker who argued that it was necessary and appropriate to read everything. This of course was in the context of writing fiction, but his reading list (he wrote letters and kept a diary of soughts) was eclectic to the extreme ends of pulp fiction to literary greats.

Still a valid approach if you want to nourish you mind with the unpredictable?

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H809 Using technology for teaching and learning in higher education: a critical review of the role of evidence in informing practice.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 11 Jun 2013, 11:38

For those on H809, H800 and H817 which are all current, as well as anyone else on the MAODE but treading water between modules, the following paper from Linda Price and Adrian Kirkwood will be of interest.

Using technology for teaching and learning in higher education: a critical review of the role of evidence in informing practice. (2013) Price and Kirkwood. From our very own Institute of Educational Technology

What forms of evidence (if any) have influenced teacher’s practices?

As a pragmatist I've always wanted to believe that decisions are always made on the best possible evidence; humans aren't like that though. The e-learning industry was as much a part of the 2001 dot.com bubble as anyone else creating content and putting it online. Clients wanted even if they had no evidence that it worked or not and even once you have pages of content online for a while they wouldn't listen if you said 'this is all going to end in tears' - or rather, questioning their motives, trying to understand where the value would come from. It came in time. Thought FT Knowledge pulled out and another site I was working on, Ragdoll, turned from an information portal to a sales platform for its TV shows ... then an online TV Channel.

Now in week 4 of H809 we are preparing the first TMA. My approach has been to read as many papers as possible until a pattern starts to form. I could be reading short stories, or listening to rock ballads - the goal is the same, to see and understand the shape of good research.

This is a mixed-method study that includes:

  • A Literature review - using a framework - 96 papers/reports reviewed
  • A Questionnaire - analysed using content analysis - SurveyMonkey completed by 58
  • Interviews - using inductive thematic analysis - 8 interviews conducted

I had thought these 96 papers would be given as references or in an appendix. I guess only those that are cited appear. I would have liked to see the SurveyMonkey questionnaire too. But would this mean there would be no need for the paper - just release all the research and data and let readers draw their own conclusions?

If that happened I wonder how many diverse views we would get from 10 or even 100 responses. However objective we try to be it surprises me how different reports can be, sometimes to the extent that I wonder if people have been looking at the same event. The human mind is a wonderful and contrary thing.

Re-enactments of traditional activities in different media formats.

In the medical professions research favours positivist experimental methods. From large-scale controlled quantitative experimental studies such as clinical field trials.

Mixed method = a pragmatist paradigm.
Methodological triangulationn = research from more than one perspective

Increasingly, though my interests are diverse, I do find the research done on the use of e-learning in medecine of particular interest. There is a greater clarity and objectivity where you have 1000 medical students put through a randomized controlled trial over several months and the outcomes on their knowledge, or recall of facts, can be tested in a formal examin. There are no ifs or buts about naming organs, muscles groups or bones in the human body. It becomes less certain if you are testing changes in knowledge in say sociology as a result of using student forums or blogs. As Dianna Laurillard says when people push for answers, 'it depends'. The variables are many and complex.

'If conclusions from each of the methods are the same, then validity is established'. (Price & Kirkwood, p3. 2013)

This is a pattern that I could see myself applying:

Sequential mixed-method design (Cohen et al., 2011, p. 25)

  1. Literature review - informed who might be suitable for interview
  2. A short practitioner questionnaire
  3. Interviews with practitioners
  4. Analytic coding (Cohen et al., 2011)

My wife does medical market research and has to take or create transcripts, as well as do the interviews sometimes, with medical specialists. Some 35 hour long interviews must then be analsyed using a system, currenly manual, where phrases and terms are categorised and clustered. From this an attempt is made to write a comprehensive and object report. I always thought she was having to write a paper or sometimes the equivalent of a thesis every few months.

Clients of course want the 'heads up' or the 'abstract' and the report reduced to a series of slides. They must read the report but they far prefer to have it presented to them. By the time you are ready to stand up and talk someone through the findings you ought to feel fairly confident about keeping it succinct.

QQ When contemplating using technology for teaching and learning, what do practitioners considers as evidence of enhancement?

For me this could read, ‘when contemplating using technology for learning and development, what do managers consider as evidence of enhancement?

May answer is = be thorough, show evidence of being thorough, explain and share your thinking and practice.

After three years of the Masters in Open and Distance Education I am delighted to say that as a student I have got my head around all of these

E-learning artefacts that could be studied as such:

  • Blended learning/e-learning/hybrid courses
  • Audio/podcasts
  • Video resources/lectures/games
  • Multimedia tools
  • Virtual laboratories/fieldwork
  • Blogs
  • Collaborative tools/wikis
  • Online discussion boards/conferences/forums
  • E-Portfolios
  • Online courses resources
  • Electronic voting/personal response systems
  • Assistive technologies

I should go back and put these into a table to indicate where across H807, H800, H808, H810 and H809 I have done these. Some expansion could be given to forums. I got my blended learning not through the MAODE which is entirely online, but from B822 Creativity, Innovation and Change. There isn't much use of video either - though these days through TED lectures and a few OU inaugural lectures you get a taste. For video and interactivity I did parts of a video-based Social Media course. I'm familiar with virtual labs from OU Stories in the press. I first used electronic voting in 1997 during a live, broadcast event at Unipart Group of Companies ... and then during a day long workshop on Creative Commons at the Open University. I have seen assistive technologies in the IET Labs, but also on visits to special needs schools and of course, studied assistive technologies as part of H810.

There are Micro, Meso and Macro scales

  • Accounts of innovation
  • Lessons learned
  • Changes in practice

Respondents were more likely to be influenced by direct contact with colleagues and by experience of engaging with relevant work or personal activities. (Price and Kirkwood p. 10. 2013)

  • Institution’s Centre for Academic Development 40%
  • Academic Colleagues 25%
  • Departmental advice for e-learning 12%
  • Inductive thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006)

This is revealing of human nature and human desires. Despite all the technology that might keep us at our desks there is still a desire to seek and take advice from another person. This is so much more apparent in the commercial world where sales people or project managers take clients through what e-learning technology can do, the strengths and weaknesses. Clients are then sold packages, platforms and tools. They want to hear from the experts, they don't want to read the papers - or to go on a course (though a few do some or all of the MAODE).

Four themes were identified by Price and Kirkwood.

  1. Nature of evidence and its collection
  2. Use of evidence
  3. Generating and sharing own evidence
  4. Changes in practice

Teachers are more concerned about ‘what works’ while researchers are more concerned about ‘why it works’ (Hargreaves, 1997, p.410).

We are all guilty of having our own agendas and perspectives.

Practitioners preferred to consult an academic developer or colleagues for guidance, rather than reading journal articles. (Price and Kirkwood p. 14. 2013)


Educator may think they are ‘improving’ learning in that learners retain more, achieve higher grades and get it down smartly and for less cost - they key driver and outcome is for a more flexible offering that that offered previously.

The academic developer’s role appears to be key in mediating evidence for practitioners. (Just as, I would suggest, the commercial developer’s role is key in mediating evidence for learning and development managers in business). i.e. we won’t review the evidence, that’s your job. Sell us something that works, that we can afford.

‘A dissonance has been observed’ by Norton, Richardson, Hartley, Newstead & Mayes (2005)

- subjectivity in categorisation and sampling methods countered by pragmatist paradigm adopted in this mixed-methods approach.  (Price and Kirkwood p. 14. 2013)


Braun, V.,  & Clark, V. (2006) Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3 (2), 77-101

Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2011) Research methods in education (7th edition). abingdon, Oxon. Routledge.

Hargreaves, D.H (1997) Educational research and evidence-based practice. London. Sage.

Norton, L., Richardson, T.E., Hartley, J.,  Newstead, S.,  & Mayes, J. (2005) Teachers’ beliefs and intentions concerning teaching in higher education. Higher Education, 50 (4), 537-571

Price, L., & Kirkwood, A.T. (2013) (in press). Using technology for teaching and learning in higher education: a critical review of the role of evidence in informing practice. Higher Education Research & Development.


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Who would you invited to an e-learning dinner party?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 25 Feb 2013, 07:15

They should be living.

There can be only 8 guests including yourself.

I offered my suggestions.

I had Martin Bean at the head of the list, then others such as Dame Professor Wendy Hall from WebSciences at University of Southampton, Professor Sugata Mitra, famous for the 'hole in the wall' experiments with children in rural India, now at University of Newcastle. From Industry I had Kirstie Donelly MBE from City & Guilds.

You get the picture.

I posted this to four groups I belong to in Linkedin.

I'll give it some more time then analyse.

Despite the instructions many are simply putting in:

'I'd invite me!'

While others have picked reality TV show stars and other random celebs.

I'm frankly staggered at people's inability to read the question.

Currently one conversation, playfully suggests, that the previous respondee would be struggling to type because of the length of their painted finger nails.

Do I despair, or simply observe with a wry smile what can be the free-for-all of 'social learning'?

It appears that many people don't read the question, the read the last response and simply tag onto that like its some massive Chinese whisper.

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H809 Activity 3.8 : Reflecting in frameworks

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 24 Feb 2013, 18:19

Q1. In the light of the podcast and this week's work, consider how you might revise the way in which you are making notes on studies. Do the questions from 1.4 need elaborating?

Questions : what research questions are being addressed?
Setting : what is the sector and setting?
Concepts : what theories, concepts and key terms are being used?
Methods : what methods if data collection and analysis are used?
Findings : what did this research find out?
Limitations : what are the limitations of the methods used?
Implications : what are the implications (if any) for practice, policy or further education?

1) I will still ask, what was the problem? What is the hypothesis? I may ask why this research is being carried. I will certainly look at who the authors are, how the research is funded and the methods used.
2) There's more to setting than a name and an address for where and when something took place. It matters and helps to know the context, the time, people and environment.
3) They may only be noticed if they are unusual or controversial, but there will be reasons why a certain theory or concept is used. This will put a slant on the research, because of the choices made by the authors, the choices that are current and appropriate and whether they have been used before and what the conclusions were then. Activity Theory, for example, is going through changes, Diffusion of Innovation theory transmogrified with the idea of a ‘chasm’. Activity Theory is becoming ‘Cultural Historical’
4) Methods are taking advantage of computers to gather and analyse data, including 'big data' in new and revealing ways.
5) There is inertia of approaches and adopting new technologies, even a bias towards conformity and 'old ways' of doing things which is how and why the breakthroughs and disruption tends to come from outside.
6) The implications are for HE and schools to try to do what industry has been doing for the last 20 years – to embrace change as a constant to be embraced, rather than as a rare occurrence to be resisted. New ways of doing things, new ways if undertaking research, new ways of analysing and sharing the data and outcomes.
7) Keep an open mind. Have a set of questions that require a comprehensive view and be prepared to be a magpie - to think outside these parameters in terms of scope, depth and spread – so cross disciplinary, historic as well as the future.


Interviewer : James Axcel
Interviewees : Dr Peter Twining (PT), Head of Department of Education + Prof. Grainne Conole (GC), Professor of E–learning

Some highlights:

'We've got that rhetoric reality gap where people talks it up (or down) and say what a great thing it is (or dreadful) and it's going to allow us to transform, whatever, and in reality it’s having very little impact on pedagogy in practice'. Grainne Conole (2007)

I've add the opposites in brackets as this is what I find happens in the press - journalists and authors either say X is a bad thing or will create a revolution (which they see as a good thing). A few years ago Nicholas Carr got far to much 'air play' saying that Goolge was making us stupid, while a decade before that Marc Prensky claimed that his take on the 'plastic brain' meants that an entire generation could be defined as 'digital natives'.

GC Has been a shift. Recognition that ICT is critical. Higher Education (HE).
High Education more joined up with HEFCE, JISC and Dfes.
Still a lot of collaborations.
Department for Education and Skills

Impact of Government

PT Students use technology automatically – so education should train skill you up for this and it should be applied in education.
GC How assesses .. every bit, technology transformation ...

Surprise at how little has been done.

Can't disentangle it.
GC Young people immersed. Love being in a technology environment. GC's 9 year old (recorded)

Peter's PhD research a number of frameworks for looking at education.
ICT in education, the confusion, use of terms to mean completely different things, so confusing, impossible to explore describing changes, get the terms, then look at the tools.

Five different types of frameworks related specifically to ICT in learning.

1) Achievements – measuring individual's progress in terms of their learning and using ICT.
2) Cognitive frameworks – impact on the individual, how they think,what's happening in their heads.
3) Software frameworks – the types of software being used, drill and skill, adventure programme, open ended, tutor–tool–tutee. vs. Technology determined.
4) Pedagogical frameworks – the nature of the interaction around computer use as a machine. Teacher, student and computer.Squires and Mcdougal's Perspectives Intersections Paradigm.
5) Evolutionary frameworks – how ICT is being rolled out in a system or classroom.

GC issue if clarity a real problem, with fads and terms.

GC clarification and classification of frameworks is important. The benefits of frameworks is that the do orher some perspective, some view, to give some clarity.

GC See a nice little pretty diagram and that explains things and that's it! It is used without understanding its depth.

  • A conflict between trying to understand while keeping the depth.
  • Jonassen Perseptives, backgrounds – constructive, positive ...
  • Fads and trends, constructition and social construction very popular over the last three decades.

Laurillard's conversational – dialogic nature of learning, in contrast to AT for the relationships.

PT underneath the technology the pedagogy translates.

GC People get beguiled and carried away by the technology. Views in Web 1.0 apply to Web 2.0.

PT What is the educational vision? What is the tool we want to use? How we design, how it fits in, a complex change process.

GC Social is important, but learning is learning, and is also individual. Moved from computer aided learning ...

PT A VLE is made to fit current practitioners.

GC Do something amazing – and got repetiton of standard practice, into a very narrow band, depsite millions of permutations.

Q2. Look back at Reading 1 and consider the questions that were asked in that research. Do you think they represent a dominant ‘paradigm’ for research in any particular period? Are the research questions and methods still relevant today?


As a business study SWOT analysis McKinsey 7 or for its versatility AT or CHAT would be more likely a way to address the complex interactions that occur in a learning environment where the only variable that ought to be different would be the ‘tool’ as VC rather than TC.

Both are required and complement each other. Greater ‘triangulation’ of the research may have given it more credibility or at least exposed more about the circumstances of the research. Untried methods should have been identified and reasons given for their not being used.

The research questions had quite an influence on the design of the research.

‘Viable option’ in terms of results, costs and other support and inputs. Worse, the same or better than traditional. More or less expensive to put on and run. More or less appropriate for students and instructors. Always felts this was exploratory, may have needed to demonstrate either way that it had a future.

Cannot be the assumptions of the research, rather it should come from the students as participants and instructors as other players. If they were missed then technical staff ought to have been questioned too as both technical and cost barriers would have been an issue.


Jonassen, D.H. (1996) Computers in the Classroom: methods for critical thinking.

Laurillard, D (2002) Rethinking University Teaching

Squires, D. and McDougall, A. (1994) Choosing and Using Educational software: a teacher's guide.

Twining, P. (2002) 'Enhancing the Impact of Investments in "Educational" ICT (online) PhD Thesis, The OU. http://kn.open.ac.uk/public/document.cfm?documentid=2515




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Research spiral

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 11:52

Action research in educational settings involves practitioners researching their own educational situations and practices, as a means of improving these. The classic action research spiral entails at least two cycles of action-planning, implementation, monitoring, critical reflection and then application of what is learned through this process to a new iteration of the cycle. (Conole et al 2006. p. 33)


Conole, G, & Oliver, M 2006, Contemporary Perspectives In E-Learning Research : Themes, Methods, And Impact On Practice, n.p.: Routledge, eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost, viewed 23 February 2013.

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What is the internet doing to our brains?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 24 Feb 2013, 07:53


Don't ask this guy!

Carr is no neuroscientist - three decades ago he took a first degree in English Literature (Dartmouth College) followed by a Masters in American Literature (Harvard). He should stick to what he knows.

Studying H809 at the moment we are stripping back research papers to understand their construction and validity. It doesn't take much reading of a book like the one above to realise that it is seriously flawed. It beggars belief that it ever made it infront of the Pulitzer Prize judging panel.

As a book it is a remarkably satisfactory artifact.

Even in paper back the cover has a wonderful fine grittiness to it - like sand. I even open the book and breathed it in. For this experience 10/10. All publishers, especially those online, need to take trouble with the Art Work too. Of course the plaudits sing out 'buy me, buy me' but as reviews go they are about as helpful as one liners on the latest blockbuster.

Carr writes well enough, not quite Bill Bryson, but an easy and intelligent read, an amble through the relevant technologies to the present day.

Carr can be accepted as a cultural and social historian, his mistake is to want to want bash this evidence into shape to support his conception of the Internet and its dangers. It is like saying that ‘rural man’ is different to ‘urban man’, that the motivations, pace and opportunities are different. Whilst this may be true, the sorts of changes to the brain that Carr suggest are not occurring.

Carr's conception of mind is both out of date and misconstrued.

What he suggests in relation to the mind is twaddle on so many levels it feels no more possible or desirable to refute than the enthusiastic chatter of a child. Carr doesn't strike me as someone who easily persuaded when he has something wrong.

  • everything touches our minds
  • everyone is different
  • not everyone has access to the Internet
  • even those who do use it for a myriad of different things in a multitude of ways.
  • years of solitary confinement, or years in the trenches on the Western Front affect different people in different ways.

When you take a set of encyclopedias and ask, 'how do I make this digital?' you get a Microsoft Encarta CD.

When you take the philosophy of an encyclopedia and ask, 'how does digital change our engagement with this?' you get Wikipedia.

How does this relate to e-learning?

It strikes me that much of that learning online has a considerable distance to go in terms of realising the potential of 'electronically enhanced' learning, that we are 'reading' for subjects and supervised by the institution and tutors very much in the style of a Microsoft Encarta CD.

Perhaps a virtual world is the way forward?

Is Carr's problem his infatuation with the past? He is the critic in 1904 looking at the demise of the horse and carriage and writing about the motor-vehicle from the perspective of blocked highways. He is only seeing one aspect of what the new technology has done with reading - reading is either no less relevant, or irrelevant. For millenia before the written word, and for thousands of years since, we have got by and learnt without the need to read from a book. There are better ways to learn - on the fly from eachother.

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H809 Activity 3.6

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 11 Jun 2013, 11:49

Read the Oliver et al. chapter, but in particular concentrate on the section headed ‘Methodology’ (pp. 30–7). Consider the following questions:

Theories Methods Approaches

To put it simply, what I see is a quest to answer a simple question ‘what is going on here?’ On the basis of observation, dissection, interview, quantification, benchmarking and other methods we hope to come to a view that can be agreed upon. We might say, we don’t know, we might say we have an idea, but these are the problems regarding our stance, or that we have a good idea what is going on and here it is .

Q1 What do each of the various approaches listed highlight?

I only felt that action research and activity theory were covered in enough detail, with the example, outcomes and likely findings to be able to apply them. A list of some nine other approaches were given … as a list. For me they imply, to use a metaphor, that if you head out into the dark you are going to see or uncover different things if you go armed with a torch, a guidebook or a trenching tool, and whether you go alone, with fellow students and/or with experts … ie. whether you are an observer, whether you situate your learning as acquired new insights on the ground, whether you literally get stuck in and/or do any of this with others to converse with - fellow students, those less knowledgeable than yourself or experts of varying degrees.

‘These different epistemological positions have profound implications for how e-learning should be studied’. (Landow, 1997)

Q2. How, if at all, are specific methods (interviews, surveys, focus groups, observation, etc.) and methodological approaches related?

The few methods that the authors elaborate are related through broad categories of social sciences.

They are also related in the sense that the same question is in essence being asked every time, ‘what is going on?’ though the angle of approach can clearly be very different because of the motivations and experience of the person(s) doing the research - and/or potential the politics and criteria of any awarding/funding body of the institution for whom, or where, the research is being carried out.  

They are related because they are all part of something complex, part of the same ‘universe’ of social activity.

I felt as if the chapter would have benefitted enormously from a Venn Diagram as the authors introduced these broad, encompasing theories, then offered a number of subsets and finally as list of some 11 specific methods but they only developed three of these: action research, activity systems and what might be called ‘power theory’. From the list given earlier in the piece I couldn’t find anything more on:

  1. actor network theory
  2. cognitive science
  3. discourse analysis
  4. grounded theory
  5. knowledge engineering
  6. artificial intelligence
  7. literacy
  8. management studies

Traditionally, changes in society and institutions are studied from the perspective of specific social sciences:

  • sociology,
  • social psychology
  • business studies, etc.

Changes in personal knowledge, understanding and skill are studied using

  • the tools of psychology,
  • personal development
  • and educational theory.

Changes in the nature of knowledge itself are studied using

  • the tools of philosophy
  • linguistics
  • media studies
  • critical theory
  • and theories of representation that may
  • include cultural theory and criticism.

Studying the intersection of these – the relationship between people, technology and knowledge – consequently draws in all of these perspectives, as well as new disciplines such as systems theory, instructional design and a field of applied research into the use of technology in education.

Given the complexity of the phenomena under study, there is certainly a need for a wide repertoire of investigative techniques. (Oliver et al . 2007. p 22)

Once represented in a digital form, knowledge can be almost limitlessly disseminated and analysed, re-inscribed, re-applied and re-appropriated. The authority associated with computer-based representations is often hidden and – because of this re-writable quality – may become complicated, referring to multiple ‘designers’, including (in interactive systems, at least in some sense) a system’s user. (Oliver et al. 2007. p 23)

These different epistemological positions have profound implications for how e-learning should be studied. Landow, 1997

Action research Technical, Practical, Emancipatory - and shared. Involves practitioners researching their own educational situations and practices, as a means of improving these. Technical - get in a specialist Practical - observation and focus-group feedback, systematic personal reflection, a couple or more iterations required. Emancipatory - identifying the systemic changes, as well as the changes to individual practice, that need to be made in order to improve specific educational situations. e.g. A quasi-experimental design, comparing the performance of cohorts over time Activity Theory Builds on the work of Vygotsky.  Learning is a social activity mediated through the use of tolls and developed into activity theory. Used like this, activity theory allows researchers to analyse systems and to focus on particular problems within them; this may allow solutions to be proposed. (Oliver et al. 2007. p. 35)

These different epistemological positions have profound implications for how e-learning should be studied.

Uses Positivism The ‘traditional’ hypothetico-deductivist view of reality as being objectively ‘out there’, something that can be posited and then investigated through our senses. Human beings are postulated as rational individuals whose behaviour can be predicted. Constructivism#
A cluster of related positions: -active experimentation (e.g. Papert, 1980),
-social interaction (e.g. Vygotsky, 1986; Wenger, 1998)
-constructed knowledge (e.g. von Glaserfeld, 1993). Ethnomethodological Looking for evidence of human motivation in the narratives and traces left behind in documentary evidence. Involves the researcher inhabiting the lives of those being studied so as to develop an understanding of those lives. Associative People learn through basic stimulus-response conditioning, then later through the capacity to associate concepts in a chain of reasoning, or to associate steps in a chain of activity to build a composite skill. This leads to accuracy of reproduction or recall. Cognitive constructivist People learn by active construction of ideas and building of skills, through exploration, experimentation, receiving feedback, and adapting themselves accordingly. This leads to integration of concepts and skills into the learner’s existing conceptual or competency structures.
Social constructivist People and groups learn with the support of dialogue and in the process of collaborative activity. Situativist

People learn through participation in communities of practice, progressing from novice to expert through observation, reflection, mentorship and legitimate peripheral participation in community activities.
This leads to the development of habits, values, identities and skills that are relevant to and supported by that community. Tacit communitarianism This is the dominant orientation of the corporate management training sectors. Leads to ‘people like us’. A commonsense pedagogy of normalisation that adopts forms from both the social perspective and positivism in order to reproduce a culture through its many tacit codes This leads to knowledge engineering and closed-systems computational approaches such as organisational learning and expert and intelligent systems. The post-theoretical or new critical approach The new critical approach acknowledges conflicts, be they epistemological, virtual or real: social class, gender, theoretical orientation, global economic/energy flows and balances. The approach might be characterised by project- and problem-based learning, applied and action research, and grounded and emergent theoretical approaches situated in communities of practice.




Beetham, H. (2005) ‘What is learning and how do we learn? Introduction to three
types of learning theory’. In Beetham, H. and Roberts, G. (eds.) Introduction to Learning Theory and Design for Learning,Oxford: ALT.

McLuhan, M. (1989) The Medium is the Message, New York, Simon and Schuster.


Cohen, L., Manion, L. and Morrison, K. (2000) Research Methods in Education, 5th edn, London: Routledge Falmer.

Conole, G, & Oliver, M 2006, Contemporary Perspectives In E-Learning Research : Themes, Methods, And Impact On Practice, n.p.: Routledge, eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost, viewed 23 February 2013.

De Laat, M., Lally, V. and Lipponen, L. (2005) ‘Teaching online in networked learning communities: a multi-method approach’, Researching dialogue and communities of enquiry in elearning in HE. ESRC E-learning seminar series, Southampton: University of Southampton. Available online at: http://www.wun.ac.uk/elearning/seminars/seminars/seminar_two/seminartwo.html last accessed 30 March 2006.

Kuuti, K (1996) Activity Theory as a framework for potential human-computer interaction research. In Nardi, B. A. (ed) Context and consciousness: Activity Theory and Human-computer interaction.

Landow, G. (1997) Hypertext 2.0: The Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology, London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Oliver, M. (2001) ‘Evaluating online teaching and learning’, Information Services and Use, 20(2/3), p. 83–94.



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