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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, Sunday, 27 Dec 2020, 08:12

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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The Shallows - Nicholas Carr - and why you shouldn't bother reading it

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 23 Feb 2013, 07:43


This isn't a promotion; I'm reading it so that you don't have to.

It has very little to say on the Internet. Rather it is a potted, amateurish and personable ramble through the history of communications and communications technologies from cunieform to the Rubix cube.

I fell asleep in chapter five.

Not that I'm incapable of 'deep reading' or seeing a book through to the end. I'm a sucker for John Grisham. I fell asleep and dreamt I was reading his book on a chair lift and forgot to get off at the top and started coming back down again - if this happens they have to stop the thing and wind you back. This was a bad dream for Nicholas Carr - the dream was telling me to drop this dreadful distraction. I have proper reading to do on webscience, neuroscience and e-learning. The kind that is written by academics, published in journals, found in the OU library then gathered up in RefWorks for later consumption.

Carr is one of those irritating humanities MAs who believes that Plutarch and Socrates have more insight on the Web and neuroscience and psychology then the leading academics of our age from the OU, OII or WebSciences at SOTON. In fact anyone who might disagree with him has of course been ignored.

I feel as if I am doing one of those party games where you have to eat as many cheese biscuits as possible. The only satisfying thing is tearing out the pages I have read and putting them in the Guinea-pig. For this I am grateful for not having a digital version.

Still, I'll hopefully be able to convince people to stop quoting Carr as the next Messiah by pointing out why and how he is beating his own drum in a one sided fashion on every page.

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What are you like?!

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 18 Nov 2013, 14:38

I just watched Daphne Koller's TED lecture on the necessity and value of students marking their own work. (for the fifth time!)

Whilst there will always be one or two who cheat or those who are plagiarists, the results from 'Big Data' on open learning courses indicate that it can be a highly effective way forward on many counts.

1) it permits grading where you have 1,000 or 10,000 students that would otherwise be very expensive, cumbersome and time consuming

2) as a student you learn from the assessment process - of your work and that of others

3) student assessment of other's work is close to that of tutors though it tends to be a little more harsh

4) student assessment of their own work is even closer to the grade their tutor would have given with exceptions at opposite ends of the scale - poor students give themselves too high a grade and top students mark themselves down.


a) it works

b) it's necessary if learning reach is to be vastly extended

c) isn't human nature a wonderful thing?! It makes me smile. There's an expression, is it Cockney? Where one person says to another 'what are you like?'


'What are we like?' indeed!

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Things I wished I'd known when I started the MAODE three years ago (I've finished, I'm doing H809 as CPD - already!)

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 11 Jun 2013, 11:56

A thorough introduction to the platform and tools as a common 16 hours to all modules.

An afternoon, face-to-face tutorial? Through OU Students regionally if not with your tutor. Perhaps through Alumni support groups in Google Hang outs or some such?

This may sound like anathema to the online, distance learning purists, but I wonder if the OU will have to 'turn itself inside out' and have undergrads on campus - not just postgrad doctoral students. As 'traditional' universities offer everything the OU and a handful of other distance learning specialists around the world used to have as 'unique selling points' they will be able to offer it all: e-learning support for resident students, e-learning for distance learners and blended learning for everyone in between.

Turn the Michael Young building into the OU's first Hall of residence.

If I go into academia I will want to teach even if my 'job' is research. I can think of no better way, intellectually, to master (literally) my art and subject than by supporting others. Knowing some star 'educators' in other institutions I wonder if tutors would gain also from greater contact. The weekly tutorial (at a price) is feasible through Google Hangouts.

I digress:

H809, understandably is a module to take once you have several modules under your belt, however, H809 light, say these first couple of weeks, might be an invaluable, even open and free 'stand alone'. I would have scrutinised more closely, fewer papers had I known what I know now.

These first few weeks has been applied learning - using the OU Library not simply as an exercise. Invaluable.

(p.s. cats were fighting in the street. I got up to survey the aftermath and couldn't get back to sleep. Why not catch up on H809 as a few postings from fellow students suggests I am getting a tad behind this week).

Don't get behind. The 'tick boxes' on the VLE 'ladder' are a blunt instrument. Every exercise deserves a 'tick box' too, though I understand why the OU wouldn't do this - it starts to smack of primary school. It really is the case (like exercise), that a a couple of hours every day is better than trying to do it all at the weekend, or worse, abandoning it for a week/10 days because catching up is a monster. If this happens seriously think about abandoning that week - keep up with everyone else first as learning with them is better than learning alone.

Isolation is a state of mind, or a behavioral issue. The sooner you learn to tip the contents of your mind out on your lap the better. Learning together is a joy.

Make time to get your head into gear in the first few weeks. If you have to give it more time than the course notes suggest put in the extra hours so that you 'get it' otherwise you will struggle all the way through. You can't do much about is as an EMA approaches if you're still asking 'but ?' about weeks 1-3.

There is no need to print anything off! Get an iPad and a Kindle. Get your digital literacy skills up to speed ASAP.

Write it all down. The default button in this OU Blog is private. Use it as a learning journal, portfolio, digital notebook, aide memoire.

Take the initiative. Meet online in week one. Buddy up, agree a time. Nothing beats meeting your fellow travellers. Google Hangouts work. The nuttiest one I remember was a 'Pyjamma party' - all above board and 'propper' but given the time differences some were in bed and woke up for it. I guess it requires the 'hyper gregarious' character in the group to do this.

Don't get distracted:

Most don't blog at all ... it should fit in to the regular programme.

Contribute to student forums always, even use RSS feeds but get used to putting the next activity first otherwise you can expend too much of the week's allocated hours discussing the first couple of activities. Enough is enough. Get the other activities out of the way then come back.

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How to blog if you'e never done it before

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Set an easy goal - post every day for a week. Two sentences will do. For every post go and read and comment on someone else's blog. Try and stick to the same time every day, say as the kettle boils first thing in the morning. Where you can stick up a picture first - see David Ogilvy on advertising, you've barely got one chance to get people's attention. Use Jakob Nielsen for suggestions on web usability.
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What's the Internet doing to our brains? Not much, i'd say, but I'm not trying to sell you a book.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 21 Feb 2013, 03:30

The Shallows : What the Internet is doing to our Brains?

Nicholas Carr

Love it or hate it the Internet is here for keeps.

I had hoped to get an objective view from Carr but 'The Shallows' fails to say what the Internet is doing to our brains.

I would love to time travel and stop my ancestors from what they were doing 35,000 years ago so that I could have shared with them the insight that making stone tools would alter their brains forever.

What's different? Not much.

Carr lacks the credentials, training or inclination to answer the question he poses. I'd ask a cross disciplinary team that would include a neuroscientist, webscientist and psychologist.

'The Shallows' is an apt title as the thinking lacks depth.

Look up a the authors Carr cites and you find they say as much to counter the arguments as support them, take the Nobel prize winning Eric Kandel for example who on the one hand identified the 'plasticity of the brain', but also showed that through habituation a sort of boredom sets in – it is hardly the case that Google is taking over our brains as Carr would have us believe.

There is no research, rather an amble through the literature.

As an mental indulgence I am reading the book and putting it through my mental shredder. In print form only makes checking references somewhat tedious. In eBook forms others would be questiong the text more often and with far great ease. What I dislike the most is how he misrepresents the work of others. The Nobel prize winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel, for example, is quoted selectively to support Carr's view that our plastic brains are being permanently set out of kilter by Google and the Internet.

I'll post the odd gobbet here, the rest in my external blog my mind bursts

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How to write a best selling book on e-learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 20 Feb 2013, 06:44

Give it a silly title:

  • Smarty Pants

With a controversial sub-title:

  • Why Google will soon control our no.1s and no.2s

Have silly and outrageous headings such as:

  • Justin Beiber gains a PhD entirely online
  • Google Glass banned from 2016 Olympics
  • Know what you child said at school this week - word for word
  • Our virtual selves will never die
  • Learn in your sleep
  • Don't write your book, think it.

Name drop authors/thinkers who have either sold a lot of books or court controversy, are very clever indeed ... or all three such as:

  • Marc Prensky
  • Marshall McLuhan
  • Nabakov
  • Nicholas Carr
  • Malcolm Gladwell

Don't mind adding writers of fiction, especially science fiction:

  • Arthur C Clarke
  • J K Rowling
  • Robert Heinlein

And probably as a good proportion of your readers don't read add some TV or film references:

  • Star Trek
  • 2001
  • Dr Who (a bit niche)
  • Da Vinci Code

And the long gone:

  • Shakeaspeare
  • H G Wells
  • Jules Verne
  • Plutarch
  • Hegel
  • Vygotsky

Add some credibility by quoting:

  • Michael Young
  • Martin Weller
  • Chris Pegler
  • Hellen Beetham
  • Cherie Booth QC

But always take their views out of context and misquote.

Never give the balanced view. You have to demonstrate that you are right about everything.

Then ruin it by misquoting fictional characters:

  • James T Kirk
  • Dr Who
  • Chewbacca

Add you life stoy as padding:

Make it sound like all major life events from your granny sitting in a bowl of peaches to your cycling proficiency certificate means that only you could possibly have come up with these world shattering, incontrovertible truths.

Have someone you seem to recognise on Shaftesbury Avenue endorse your book:

  • Peter Stringfellow gives smarty pants the thumbs up.

(You'd thought it was Richard Branson)





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Can a popular book sit on the fence? Academic vs. popularist

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 19 Feb 2013, 18:43

I wonder if the difference between the book selling 'voices' of e-learning are to academics what pop music is to classical music.

They make a great fuss, sing and dance, but lack substance. They are popular and sometimes wrong. Marc Prensky and the Digital Natives compared to Martin Weller's Ring Cycle?!

In 'The Shallows' Nicholas Carr goes out of his way to select anecdotes and references to prop up his thesis that Google is making us stupid. The wise, though less popular and academic approach would have been to make the case both ways with equal effort, to argue that Google is making is smart.

The two propostions would make for a reasonable and reasoned debate. There are two books in it.

Can a popular book sit on the fence?

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Links to the blog

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I thought I'd sort these out for the first time in three years.

An afternoon of clicking, and reviewing I have got through 45 links. I've just made the mistake of counting them all. 235 or something. Still if, I can get this down to 60 it'll be more manageable and I'll be more inclined to follow ... which is half the point of blogging. You write, but aslo read and comment on other's stuff.



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H809 : Can blogging be worthy of academic study?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 2 Apr 2013, 12:07

I did a search in my own blog knowing that somewhere I cited an academic who described blogging as 'whatever you can do on electronic paper'.

Chatting about this at dinner my 14 year old son trumped my conversation with his mother as I tried to define a blog and what can go into one with one word 'anything'.

For me there has been a slow shift from text (the weblog-cum-dairy journal thingey), to adding pictures (which have become photo / image galleries, photostreams of Flickr and concept boards of Pinterest), to adding video ... to adding 'anything' - apps, interactivity, grabs, mashups, music ...

My starting place is here.

This 'eportofolio, writers journal, aggregating, dumping ground, place for reflection and course work'.

You see, is it a blog at all? This platform, I'm glad, has its design roots in a Bulletin board.

The limitations of our OU Student Blog platform works in its favour.

I can only put in two search terms. In Google I might write a sentence and get a million links, in my wordpress blog it might offer have the contents.

Less is more.

Here I search 'blog paper' and get 112 posts that contain both words.

I'll spin through these an add a unique tag. My starting place.

But to study blogging would be like researching the flotsam and jetsam that floats across our oceans - after a tsunami.


Starting with a book published in 2006 'Use of Blogs' I want to read a paper 'Bloggers vs. Journalists' published in 2005. A search finds richer, more up to date content. Do I even bother with this first paper? (ironic that we even call them papers).

I can't read everything so how do I select?

  • Toggle through the abstract, check out the authors, see where else such and such a paper has been cited.
  • Prioritise.
  • Use RefWorks rather than my habit to date of downloading papers that MIGHT be of interest.

Whilst storage space is so inexpensive it is virtually free there is no need to clutter my harddrive, dropbox or Google Docs space.

Which makes me think of one of my other favourite metaphors - kicking autumn leaves into the breeze. That or drowning in info overload, or as the Robert de Nero character in Brazil, Archibald 'Harry' Tuttle, who vanishes in a pile of discared paper ... my mind wanders. We do. It does.

I stumble in the OU Library as I find I am offered everything under the sun. I am used to being offered academic papers only. So far all I'm getting are scanned images of articles in newsapers on blogging. All feels very inside out.

Where's the 'turn off the printed stuff' button?

I fear that just as I have never desired to be a journalist, prefering the free form of your own diary, letters, and of course blogging and forums online, I will struggle to write within the parameters of an academic paper. I'm managing assignment here, so I guess I'm learning to split the two. A useful lesson to have learnt.


Is this a research methodology?

I am looking at a book on bloggin, 'Use of Blogs' (Bruns & Jacobs, 2006). I have it open on p.31 Notes (i.e. references) for the chapter Journalists and News Bloggers.

As I pick through these articles, papers and reviews written between 2002 and 2005 I find several of the authors, a decade on, are big names in the Journalism/Blogger debate. It's as if I am looking at a tray of seedlings.

It strikes me as easier to start in 2006 with 27 starting points when the field of debate was narrow, rather than coming in from 2013 and finding myself parachuting into a mature Amazonian jungle of mixed up printed and digital, journalism and blog content.

Courtesy of the OU Library and RefWorks I have nailed this article after a decade of searching:

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

Reading this around 23rd /24th September 1999 prompted me to start blogging

Then I'd been reading blogs for a few months but had a mental block with uploading HTML files and then along came the first 'ready made' DIY blogging platforms.

The last 12 years makes amusing reading - particularly the battle between journalists and bloggers. And who has won? Is there a difference anymore? Journalists blog and bloggers are journalists and entire newspapers are more blog-like from The Huffington Post to the FT ... which within three years will close all its print operations.

To be used in learning and to be a genre to study blogging needs to be part of formative assessment

A blog therefore becomes 'an active demonstration of learning' with cumulative feedback. I've only received ONE Tutor comment in my OU blog and that was to say why was I blogging and not getting on with my TMA. This person had their head so stuffed inside primary school education of the 1960s it made me feel like tossing my cap in the air.

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

  1. an audience
  2. community
  3. the utility of and need for comments
  4. presentational style of the blog content
  5. overarching factors related to the technological context
  6. the pedagogical context of the course

Cited x30


'Bloggers vs. journalist: The next 100 year War?' 2011, Public Relations Tactics, 18, 4, p. 17, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 18 February 2013.

Bruns, A. Jacobs, J. (2006) Use of Blogs.

Kerawalla, L, Minocha, S, Kirkup, G, & Conole, G (2009) 'An empirically grounded framework to guide blogging in higher education', Journal Of Computer Assisted Learning, 25, 1, pp. 31-42, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 18 February 2013.

Rosen, J. (2007) 'Web Users Open the Gates', Washington Post, The, n.d., UK & Ireland Reference Centre, EBSCOhost, viewed 18 February 2013.



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Test to extreme

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What works best?

24 hours learning in 24 hours or 24 hours learning over 24 days?

By the hour with no intervals or a gap of six days and 23 hours?

Any thoughts?

I ask as I've sometimes done the 24 hour thing working on a play, a short film (over night shoot), or writing. You stretch it out over a long period and you may water it down. The experience and the learning is less of an event.


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Daphne Koller: The University has flipped and The OU should have been there first

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 22 Oct 2014, 14:27

Fig. 1. Daphne Koller TED lecture on YouTube

Daphne Koller is a professor of Computer Science at Stanford University and a Third generation PhD. In this insightful talk we learn how e-learning is changing learning opportunities globally. Scale is at the heart of it.

A Machine Learning Class at Stanford with an undergraduate enrolment of some 400 when put online is followed by 100,000. And the lessons from scale led to the creation of Coursera where anyone can take the world’s top classes for free - delivered by the best instructors from the best universities.

  • Personalised curriculum
  • A coherent concept in 8 – 10 minutes
  • Students can traverse the content in different ways background, skills or interest.
  • Support or enrichment.

Practising with the material is important.

Video is interrupted to pose questions. Students are expected to engage.

  • Multiple choice
  • Short answer questions
  • Grade math and models

To be told when you are right or wrong is essential to student learning.

How do you grade 100,000 students?

Peer grading is a surprisingly successful strategy (Sadler & Good, 2006) .

  • Teacher and student grades extraordinarily similar, even self-grades.
  • And the student learns from the experience.

And learning is socialised

  • Around each of our courses a community of students has formed.
  • Some meet online, others locally.
  • Students respond to each other’s queries.

‘The median question to response time was 22 minutes because somewhere around the globe there was someone awake’. (Koller, 2012)

From 0:14:11

‘There are some tremendous opportunities to be had from this kind of framework’.

‘First it has the potential of giving us a completely unprecedented look into understanding human learning because the data that we can collect here is unique. You can collect every click, every homework submission and every form post from tens of thousands of students so you can turn the study if human learning from the hypothesis driven mode to the data driven on transformation that for example has revolutionized biology.

Fig. 2. Correcting misconceptions and poor learning paths


You can use the data to understand fundamental questions like what good learning strategies are versus ones that are not and in the context of particular courses you can ask questions like what are some of the misconceptions that are more common and how can we help fix that. 2000 students give the same wrong answer ... produce a targeted error message to give personalized feedback.

Fig. 3. Benjamin Bloom (1984) , 2 Sigma problem.

Lecture, mastery based approach, taught one on one with a tutor. individual gives you 2 sigma improvement 50/50 Individual 98% above average But cannot afford to provide every student with an individual tutor. Mastery will grade multiple times and show you the same video over and over without getting bored.

How can we push towards the 2 Sigma curve.

‘The mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting. From Ian Kidd's translation of Essays’. Plutarch

0:18:50 More time required igniting their creativity, their imagination and their problem solving skills by talking with them. We do that by active learning in the classroom.

Performance improves by every metric:

  • attendance
  • engagement
  • standardized tests

It would do three things:

  • Establish education as an absolute fundamental human right.
  • Enable lifelong learning
  • A wave of innovation


Guskey, TR 2007, 'Closing Achievement Gaps: Revisiting Benjamin S. Bloom's "Learning for Mastery"', Journal Of Advanced Academics, 19, 1, pp. 8-31, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 17 February 2013.


Bloom, BS 1984, 'The 2 Sigma Problem: The Search for Methods of Group Instruction as Effective as One-to-One Tutoring',Educational Researcher, 6, p. 4, JSTOR Arts & Sciences IV, EBSCOhost, viewed 17 February 2013.

Koller, D (2012) Ted Lecture Daphne Koller: What we're learning from online education (accessed 17 Feb 2013 http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=U6FvJ6jMGHU )

Sadler, P, & Good, E 2006, 'The Impact of Self- and Peer-Grading on Student Learning', Educational Assessment, 11, 1, pp. 1-31, ERIC, EBSCOhost, viewed 17 February 2013.

Permalink 3 comments (latest comment by Sharif Al-Rousi, Thursday, 21 Feb 2013, 00:05)
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This isn't a gripe, rather a recognition of human nature and a desire to understand better what on earth is going on.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 16 Feb 2013, 15:26


I still have a copy of Jakob Nielsen's 'Web Usability' from 2000 - it's as good now as it was then and the research his company does is, I believe, recognised for that it tells us.

Only a tiny fraction of people contribute to content creation online, a few more comment while the majority, over 90%, are reader/observers. (I loathe the pejorative term 'lurker' - there is nothing wrong with reading passively, or watching passively or listening passively. Thankfully not everyone feels the desire to write, to direct or to compose music.

1-9-90 is the split for all online content

0.1% - 5% - 94.9% is the split for blogging - those who blog, comment on blogs or simply read them.

And so he gives splits in Wikipedia and in Facebook.

You'd think a community of postgraduate students doing an entirely online course might be closer to 25 - 50 - 25.  Why not the other way around? 90-9-1%

Human nature

What a noisy world it would be if we all felt the urge to stand on a soapbox at the end of the street and prattle on, or busk all day in the Shopping Precinct.

I'm unconvinced of these stats though. Defining a 'blog' is like pointing at a passing cloud and saying 'that one's mine'.

Where are the stats to be found on such things?

And that person who did those cave paintings 35,000 years ago. I bet he was a 1% er. So what does that say for the other 99%? Nothing at all. They may never have even seen them.


Nielsen. J. (2006) Participation Inequality: Encouraging More Users to Contribute. (Accessed 16 February 2013 http://www.nngroup.com/articles/participation-inequality/ )

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Reading this with such ease makes me smile and glad to be human and not an android.

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Acocdrnig lo an elgnsih unviesitry

.suttly llie oredr of ietetrs in a wrod

dosen't tnttaer, the ulny thnig thta's

iopmrantt is that the frsit and Isat

Itteer of eevry word is in the crcreot

ptoision. The rset can be jmbueld and

one is stiil able to raed the txet wiohtut



Anyone can to say how or why???

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My FlickR

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My Flickr

I keep losing track of this! And then I never know my password. An early adopter of everything my first 1000+ photo gallery was in Kodak Easyshare. I think I managed to rescue all but 300 of pictures before that went 'poof' into the cyber vacuum of nonWWW space.

So much for trusting everything to the 'Cloud'.

Anyone got data on Amstrad floppy discs!?

Even floppies from a Mac Classic.

Do I even want to recover that data?

These days I TRUST the OU to be around tomorrow big grin

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It’s easy to blog, so more should do it.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 18 Nov 2013, 11:20
  • low-threshold creation of entries
  • a flexible and personally meaningful way to organise and maintain them
  • opportunities to retrieve, reuse and analyse blog content
  • opportunities to engage with others.
  • fitted in while working on something else
  • providing a way to keep abreast of others ideas
  • capturing ones’ own emergent insights
  • clarifying matters for a public
  • over time ideas on a topic accumulate and connections between them become clearer.
  • feedback from readers turns blogging into a sense-making practice
  • eventually an ideas is ‘ripe’ and ready to become part of a specific task.

Efimova (2008. p. 208)

But how many do it? Ask around in your tutor group. I doubt the figure gets above 5% unless it is compulsary and then I doubt that more than 50% post more than three times during the course of module - a minimum requirement.


Efimova, L. (2009) Passion at work: blogging practices of knowledge workers. Novay PhD
Research Series 2009 (www.novay.nl.dissertations)

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H809 A handy blog on qualitative market research

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Qualitative Market Research

David Kreimer

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H809 WK 2 Activity 2.5: Reflecting on the research methods

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 27 Dec 2020, 08:11
In the discussion of task A11 (pp. 279–81) the account of the students’ utterances is plausible, but why is transcript data to be preferred to the video data for such a visual task?

It is words that are being analysed, use of spoken rather than visual language - however important we know facial expression and body language to be.

A criticism sometimes made of quantitative research is that it uses preconceived categories rather than letting findings ‘emerge’ from the data. The ‘Commentary’ on task A11 (pp. 280–1) is qualitative rather than quantitative, but it could be argued that it also uses preconceived categories.

You have to tell readers what you did and why so that they can draw their own conclusions.

Do you think it would be possible to avoid the use of preconceived categories when analysing this data?

Yes, if it is accepted that an exploratory and iterative form of observation and analysis is valid.

When you read the claim on page 281, did you ask yourself if the researchers had looked at whether this was also true of the control group?

Which is why video is necessary compared to audio, that you need all the information that was available to the participants to decide how they would behave.  They’d have had to be blind to be acting on words alone.

Are you convinced that the study effectively demonstrates the authors’ case

Whilst I don’t want to be dismissive of all research because of the bias and problems as long as there is an understanding of this then such research needs to be carried out.

What does the computer add to the analysis?

A new way of doing things and the beginning of ways to analyse ‘big data’ to look for patterns and meaning that was difficult to do before the advent of computers.

What is the status of computer-based text analysis 16 years on?  Spend 20 minutes trying to answer this question by searching the web.

Wegerif in 2009 undertaking extensive study of talk in maths teaching - Data collected through baseline standardised tests, diagnostic tasks, video recordings of group work, summaries of teacher meetings, teacher interviews and evaluations.

Talking Counts: An intervention programme to investigate and develop the role of exploratory talk in young children’s arithmetic.


The second strand is to analyse changes in the children's talk. Whole lessons and group interactions are analysed to identify the relationship between talk and children's learning in mathematics.

Mercer, N. and Sams, C. (2006) “Teaching Children How to Use Language to Solve Maths Problems”, Language and Education, 2

The methodology for making this kind of comparison, as described in more detail in Wegerif and Mercer (1997) and Mercer (2004), combines a detailed qualitative analysis of language used by each group of children in specific episodes of joint activity with a quantitative computer-based analysis of the whole corpus of recorded group talk.

Our grateful thanks also to Open University colleagues Dr Martin Le Voi (for his expert assistance in completing the statistical analysis) and Dr Frank Monaghan (for his critical commentary on this paper).

Mercer, N 2010, 'The analysis of classroom talk: Methods and methodologies', British Journal Of Educational Psychology, 80, 1, pp. 1-14, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 14 February 2013.

• It is difficult to use these methods to handle large sets of data, because they are so time consuming. It is commonly estimated that transcribing and analysing 1 h of talk using such methods will take between 5 and 12 h of research time;
• it can be difficult to use such analyses to make convincing generalizations, because only specific illustrative examples can be offered; and
• researchers are open to charges of selecting particular examples to support their arguments.
• Actual talk, as data, may be lost early in the analysis. A researcher works only with predefined categories, and so new insights which might be gained from repeated considerations of the original data will be missed;
• the use of pre-determined categories or other target items can limit analysts' sensitivity to what actually happens; and
• coding which depends on the decontextualized identification of language features cannot handle the ways that the meaning of any utterance will depend on its history within the observed dialogue and perhaps in previous encounters between participants.


• An efficient way of handling a lot of data; a researcher can survey a lot of classroom language relatively quickly and analyse a representative sample of events;
• enable numerical comparisons to be made across and within data samples, which can then be subjected to a statistical analysis.
• Any transcribed talk remains throughout the analysis (rather than being reduced to
categories at an early stage) and so the researcher does not have to make initial judgments about meanings which cannot be revised;
• any categories emerging are generated by the analysis, not by codings based on prior assumptions;
• in research reports, examples of talk and interaction can be used to show concrete
illustrations of your analysis: researchers do not ask readers to take on trust the validity of abstracted categorizations;
• the development of joint understanding, or the persistence of apparent
misunderstandings or different points of view, can be pursued through the continuous data of recorded/transcribed talk; and
• because the analytic scheme is not established a priori, the analysis can be expanded to include consideration of any new aspects of communication that emerge in the data.

(Strengths and weaknesses above from Mercer)
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