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Intitial ponderings on learner's owrnership of their learning

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The main part of TMA04 is an essay in which we discuss the following question:

‘Learners now have ownership of technology-enhanced learning.’

I have done a fair amount of thinking about this so far. I have been weighing up the ideas of learner agency and how far this equates to ownership. I have wondered which learners should own their learning - surely we don't expect pre-school children to hold this responsibility? How about people who simple must get their 'health and safety' certificate to comply with workplace regulations?

I have considered the idea from the point of view of exam boards and institutions who wish qualifications and awards to have consistency and reputation, and who represent the 'experts' in any given subject area.

At lunch time today my daughter, who is 18 and awaiting A-level results, asked what I was studying at the moment. I told her the question and she rolled her eyes and exclaimed 'I'm bored already' (not an atypical response - she's a scientist through and through and has yet to comprehend the fascination I have with the more existential and ephemeral questions posed by social science!). However - she did immediately follow up with 'I know what the answer is though' (told you she was a scientist!).

Her answer 'It's going to be somewhere in the middle.'

As we discussed what she meant I had to acknowledge that maybe she had more of a grasp of social sciences that I had realised! For every question for which there is an argument and a counter-argument there is unlikely to be a firm conclusion drawn by anyone which is close to either extreme.

And once more I am battling about the very nature of learning! One the one hand I am an idealist who believes learning to be a sacred and precious thing which need no end other than itself (hence I spend hours every day listening to podcasts about every subject I can think of, hence I try to read 50 books every year from a wide variety of genres, hence I sometimes find myself watching documentaries late at night about the design of junction 6 of the M6!) and then also remembering that part of the joy of learning is found in the achievement and affirmation accorded by a good mark, a certificate, letters after your name.

H800 is, to a large extent, a long thought process about how the rapid development of technology in the last 20 years has changed learning at every level and for every player and how we can envision further changes in the future. It is entirely possible, even probable, that one impact is the learner now has more agency and more ownership of their own learning.... but they still must share it somewhat with the people or institutions who will eventually assess them.

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Studying at work

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I have not been a good student! A busy life and a heatwave has distracted me (again - I know!) and I am once more starting a week having not completed the last one. Today we are planning a student 'meet up' in the online room though. We are to discuss our next assignment so I was keen to get going and at least get the bones of the thing lodged in my head. 

Although I am not supposed to be working, my daughter has got a casual summer job at my place of work (which is 90 minutes bus journey away from home) so I decided to come into work, do my studies (no distractions) and give her a lift both ways. 

So far it's ok but I do keep getting sucked into work stuff! 

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Teaching and technology - built in obsolescence?

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Tuesday, 17 Jul 2018, 16:48

An activity this week has been to read a long, but helpful, chapter by Conole about the ways technology has already impacted both learning and teaching, and the implications of these changes for future practice. 

This section caught my attention:

"The teacher–student nexus is also under threat. In an information-rich, Web 2.0 world where the focus is on user-generated content, peer dialogue, and co-construction of knowledge, the notion of teacher as “expert” and student as “receiver” makes little sense. Therefore, there is a disjuncture between student use of the technologies and academic use, with students increasingly developing their own sophisticated personal learning environment of tools and resources to support their learning" Conole 2011

The readily available, and vastly broad and deep, resources available to students could easily be imagined as a threat to the future of teaching as we have known it. For centuries the teacher's currency has been their knowledge - what they knew (and to some extent what they also knew about how to teach) was what they sold to the market. Now everything they know - plus a thousand times more information - is available at the click of a button. A book tells one story, a teacher may be able to tell a few stories, the internet has billions of stories. 

I asked my daughter (just finished A-levels) and a friend of hers this question:

If you had access to a wide variety of books, papers, articles, videos and other resources, could you have learned your A-levels without the teacher's input?

The answers I received were:

 "Yes totally." and

"Yes.... I think so. I would have missed talking about it with other students." 

Bearing in mind that these two are both highly motivated, mature students who needed no additional pushing to keep them on track (not necessarily typical!) I would not draw a firm conclusion. I am not even convinced it is true of them either but certainly the perception of 'teacher knows the stuff so I must listen in class' is not something they hold. 

But yet I don't like the idea of the teacher becoming defunct. Something in me resists the idea that humanity will cease to be the primary teacher of humanity. 



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Multiple Choice

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The multiple choice question is nothing new. It's always been an easy way to test knowledge as questions are necessarily straightforward and unambiguous. Learners have traditionally enjoyed them as they're perceived to be easy as sometimes the process of elimination, or sheer guess work, can get you a mark when your knowledge was shaky. 

In the age of the computer a multiple choice question becomes even more attractive - the questions can be presented on a screen and answered with a click. The computer can present questions in response to previous answers given and the computer can both mark each paper but also analyse the answers of a whole cohort to identify weak areas of knowledge (or even weak questions). Important exams now take place using this method. 

The ease of the MCQ exam though should not be the only consideration. Imagine this question:

"Describe the process of making an omelet"

If a learner had to use a few lines to answer in their own words they may well learn more effectively than if the question was as follows:

"Which of the following describes the process of making an omelet"

A. Break eggs, add milk, heat butter in a pan and then add the eggs. Stir for a few minutes until cooked. 

B. Break eggs and whisk. Melt butter in the microwave then add eggs and microwave for 2 minutes"

C. Separate eggs into yolk and white. Whisk whites until stiff then fold in yolks gently. Bake in a low oven for an hour"

D. Break and whisk eggs with milk. Heat butter in a frying pan. Add eggs, allow to cook before flipping. 

E. Break eggs carefully into a pan of boiling water. Leave to simmer for one minute then leave in hot water for 5 more."

Even someone who didn't know what an omelet was, but did know what scrambled eggs, poached eggs and meringue was, could guess the correct answer. 

In my EMA I want t investigate ways in which the benefits of the multiple choice question can be utilized whilst not sacrificing deep and broad learning. 

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Imagine if....

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We have been looking this week at the value of institution specific virtual learning environments (VLEs) versus other general internet platforms which may be more familiar to learners. 

I love Facebook. I was an early adopter and I still log on several times a day. I use it for socializing, debating, organizing, asking questions. I find the layout and features very intuitive and each new version adds more usability and value (although I bitch about it like everyone else for a few weeks after it starts to look different!)

I would like if more of our H800 / OU experience was more like Facebook. I'd prefer if the forums were presented in that way - so I could respond to individual comments rather than adding to a thread. I'd like to be able to 'like' a comment without having to comment on it. I'd like to be easily able to add links and pictures (it's not hard in the forums, it's just easier in Facebook) and I'd like to be permanently logged in on my phone as well as my laptop. 

At present Facebook may not offer the specific features necessary for the whole course. Private areas can be organized but maybe not secure enough to ensure appropriate privacy. Handing in assignments may be tricky without first publicly posting them online. It would also require everyone had a Facebook account which I know may not be what everyone wants.

I would love it if Facebook could develop an associated service called 'Facebook Scholar' or similar with the appropriate functionality. 

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Ready Player One

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Sunday, 1 Jul 2018, 16:08

I am a reader. I have always read vociferously but in recent years I have tried to be more strategic in what I read. You know those lists... "100 books you must read to be well read"? Well - I fall for them and have spent the last few years alternately ploughing through dreadfully long and turgid worthies whilst also discovering sparkling and glorious classics I would never have discovered on my own! 

A book which has appeared on these lists recently (probably due to a Spielberg film!)is "Ready Player One" and it's also the book for summer with my book club (aka wine, gossip and snack night). 

And I am blogging about this because.... I am only on chapter 2 and I have come across an exquisite vision of technology enhanced learning. The sort of thing which the most optimistic H800er would weep with joy over! 

The first example of technology enhanced learning was a brief description of the virtual learning worlds the protagonist played in from babyhood. He describes how his mum and he went into these places together to learn much as a 5-year-old would describe a trip to the zoo or the museum. 

In the story all students who 'pass' one level of school can then go to a virtual high school. The school is replicated thousands of times so each 'site' only has a normal number of students. The virtual building they go to has glorious marble foyers and fabulous facilities. Students attend in avatar form - the avatar must match the gender, age and species of the student (no unicorns, dinosaurs or  so on). The students each have a virtual 'locker' in which they store their school supplies (presumably like a folder in a normal computer filing system) and attend lessons according to a timetable we would recognize as being a normal school timetable. Students have classmates - including friends, enemies, bullies, popular kids and geeks. But bullying can never get beyond verbal spats as the avatars cannot be violent to one another due to software precautions. Even verbal spats are controlled as any student can 'mute' any other student. 

I saw the film so I know I am unlikely to learn much more about the school but what fascinated me was how easily I bought into the idea. We currently have very poor examples of Virtual Reality - nothing like OASIS (the hyperreal virtual world in which the story takes place) can be created. It can barely be imagined. However - when I was 15 I could never have imagined digital photographs, email, social media. I remember the first time I could pause live television.... it was like magic.

Maybe the ideas of some educators are simply running ahead of technology. They are trying to use the clunky, newly developed and bug ridden technology of today to create the sleek and streamlined learning environments and opportunities of the future. Their students get frustrated and their learning experience is compromised by tech glitches. Other educators can see the technology is clunky, new and bug ridden and therefore see no reason to move on from the reliable chalkboard and glitch-free paper text book. But the technology is racing onwards. It won't always be clunky and the bugs will be eradicated. Maybe there will be a generation who 'attend' school with little more than an internet connection and a headset. 


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Fell off the wagon :(

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In my last post I blamed the wait for my marked TMA for my feelings of disengagement but 2 weeks after I got it back I am only just properly logging in to my OU account. I have flitted in and out, I attended a tutorial (for which I was pretty unprepared) and I kept making plans to 'really get stuck in for a few hours this evening'. It's not been happening.

I do have a lot going on. My eldest child is, as I type, on a plane en route to Hong Kong where he will spend the next 5 weeks. He's been very chilled about it leaving me to complete the appropriate and necessary amount of worrying! My next child finished her A-level exams less than a fortnight ago leaving the whole household in a quivering heap of nervous exhaustion. I have two other children and a husband who have been somewhat neglected plus I have moved into a period at work which requires a fair amount of travel and diminished energy for study. Plus it is gorgeously sunshiny outside and studying is an inside activity. 

Thankfully an extension for TMA03 was agreed by my kind tutor! 

I imagine I can't be unique in a cyclical pattern of being 'in control' and 'on top of it' and 'coping fine' to the absolute opposite. 

Self directed adult studies require you to be a grown up. Absolutely no one harasses me to study. No one checks I am keeping up with the reading and the responsibility to log in and do the stuff lies entirely with me. Adulting is a skill which even an old woman of 44 sometimes finds tricky! 

Anyway - I now have the bones of my TMA3 together. I have started the activities for weeks 21/22 and I have looked at TMA04 and liked what I saw - it's more academic and less personal context dependent which is a relief. 

Just have to keep this up! What I really need is for my mum to draw a sticker chart and promise me a MacDonalds when I complete it! big grin

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TMA02 is back

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I have found it very hard to focus on H800 whilst in the 'waiting for a score' limbo. I am not sure why this is - maybe my university assignments were always due before a reading week or a break and I am accustomed to a few days off after the slog of completing then handing in an essay.

I did have a week off on holiday but even when I got back I found my visits to the OU site always featured a click on the Assessment button before I looked elsewhere.

Late last night the email came, and I got out of bed and logged in. I am happy. I moved up two whole grade bounds from TMA01 and the feedback from my tutor is very encouraging. One slight gripe - a few times he questioned why I didn't expand on points or justify statements - because of the word count! Every single time the word count stymied me!

Now I have a fortnight of other H800 activity to catch up with! And TMA03 to work towards and TMA04 to begin thinking about.... oh and the EMA too!

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Using Twitter

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Tuesday, 12 Jun 2018, 15:12

A few years ago I was sent on a few 'Using Social Media' workshops which were being offered to the employees of SMEs. 

The funniest one was the 'Facebook for Beginners' class in which it became very obvious, almost immediately, that I was far more expert than the tutor! I was an early adopter of Facebook and I knew my way around!

It was a bit like that this week. I have ebbed and flowed in my Twitter use for the past few years but I have, at various points, being quite active and I know my way around. I know about finding people and hashtags, I know how to send a tweet to a specific person, I know how to reply to another tweet and effectively begin or join a conversation, I know how to include a link. I even know how to shorten the link! 

I confess, though, I had not thought of Twitter as being useful before. I've used it to promote products at work and I've used to moan about panelists on Question Time (and judges on Strictly!), and I've used it to 'microblog' my activities. 

I looked at one article posted by Lynne (who is in my tutor group) but couldn't find any other content under the #H800 hashtag. Have other students not got this far yet or have they not used the hashtag? It wasn't part of the instructions yet was instinctive to me. 

Lynne's article looks interesting but I was on my phone so didn't risk my eyesight trying to read it in full. It was a tad old and suggested huge numbers of students use Facebook as a key part of their university application research - something I strongly suspect is no longer the case (young people don't use Facebook much - their parents are there!). However - the abstract and introduction did introduce the issue of 'blurring' caused by Facebook - the blurring of personal and professional, private and public, social and individual, opinion and information. I think this is a key quality (note - not a strength or weakness) of Web 2.0. Old distinctions, even firm demarcation lines, don't apply in the same way when we are online. 

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Collaboration

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Thursday, 7 Jun 2018, 23:15

We are gearing up for TMA03 which is basically the plan for our EMA which is the big one. 

The final question we are the address in this short assessment is:

What is your current response (possibly very tentative at this stage) to the question: ‘To what extent do you find the concepts of “individual” and “collaborative” learning useful in understanding your experience of learning this year – whether on H800 or elsewhere?’

I knew that H800 (and MAODE more generally) would be a mostly solo exercise and I was happy with that. I am a full on extrovert but I have lots of outlets for this personality trait so I figured that a few hours alone at a laptop wouldn't hurt me at all!

In some ways I was right - I am finding that working at my own pace is very pleasing and that being able to investigate interesting tangents is satisfying (albeit time consuming!). What I hadn't banked on was the constant niggling question of 'Am I doing it right?' This need for affirmation can easily be satisfied by being in a peer group. 

The exchange of ideas and insights is valuable and collaboration in research vital. And I have missed that. I love the forums but they're not quite the same (especially as we are quite directed in our activity there).

I have found Adobe Connect frustrating generally. It's not quite similar enough to being around a coffee table; but tonight eight people from our tutor group met for over an hour to discuss TMA03, EMA and the course in general. It was so much fun and SO helpful. 

We also have a WhatsApp group and a Facebook group. People have started to follow each other on Twitter. I feel we are building really useful and productive relationships. I know I can learn a lot from these people and hopefully can offer them something as well. 
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Technology doesn't educate people, people educate people

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Monday, 4 Jun 2018, 23:14

I began yesterday by describing technology as 'neutral'. A comment suggested that this did not make technology inert and I have since been formulating a response. 

The gun control debate within the USA (and between the USA and the rest of the world) is frustrating and circular. One regularly cited soundbite is

Guns don't kill people, people kill people

You can't argue with it when taken as a standalone sentence and I suppose my argument that 'technology is neutral' is in a similar vein. However - it is not the 'slam dunk, check mate' soundbite many who cite it consider it to be!

A gun cannot shoot itself, it has no agency. However - it absolutely amplifies the agency of the person holding the gun. An angry person and an angry person with a gun have entirely different levels of power and incomparable potential to cause harm. A depressed person with a gun is more likely to end up successfully killing themselves than a depressed person with a bottle of pills. A police force with guns are more likely to make snap judgements which turn out to be fatal and unjust than a police force armed with pepper spray and truncheons. Additionally - society at large changes due to the 'neutral technology' that is the gun. A perception - real or exaggerated - of likely harm creates an atmosphere in which people who may not want to own a gun feel they have to 'just in case'. In short - the neutral technology distorts situations so much that not only is the impact of behavior changed, but the behavior changes as well. 

So does technology cause or encourage change? I would have to concede that yes - it does both. I can see that technology distorts the status quo ante significantly enough that the outcome of people's behavior and actions are different and that the mere existence of technology creates an atmosphere in which people makes different decisions. 

Learning Technology seemingly offers so much in terms of pedagogy, reach, impact and engagement that educators may begin to make the technology central in their learning design and the technology could massively amplify the impact of their teaching. Then the perception that 'everyone else is doing it' can create an atmosphere where using the available technology becomes imperative for fear of falling from relevance. Of course - our studies thus far have shown that the 'enhancement' offered to 'learning' by 'technology' is far more complex than some of the hype would have you believe - but it is the perception which changes behavior far before the statistics and facts do. 

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Chickens or eggs?

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Sunday, 3 Jun 2018, 22:14

Is technology itself a cause of reform or an instrument used to encourage reform?

One argument I have repeatedly made within H800 is that technology is neutral. It can be used for good or for ill, it can enhance or detract, it is neither good or bad - it simply is. Whilst this is not a fully formed position I tend to think that it's a good place to begin from. 

However - this question doesn't really ask if technology is good or bad. It assumes a correlation between technology and reform and asks us to assess a causal link.

The personification of 'technology' is the first problematic idea we face. Technology is not independent - it is all created by, and for, people. It can not cause or encourage anything. The people behind it may do so. Do these people develop technology with a view to reform? I suppose some may but I would be surprised if that was the majority position. Technology, ironically, seems to evolve in an almost biological way with unexpected successes, inexplicable failures and a messy march in the general direction of forwards - but with many tangents and offshoots. 

The company I work for could not exist without the internet. All of our services and products are bought online, a great many of them are delivered online. Was this was Tim Berners-Lee had in mind? Or Bill Gates? No - absolutely not. The long term impact of their inventions was not so much unintended and unexpected as beyond our wildest dreams. 

So many aspects of everyday life (in the developed world, and increasingly everywhere) are now technology dependent. Banking, shopping, travel, communications - all heavily reliant on the internet. Did the development of the internet cause this reform or was it a tool used to encourage reform? Did we, 20 years ago, even perceive that reform was necessary or possible? 

Given that we are specifically looking at 'learning' in H800 I suppose the question must be applied to the classroom, lecture theatre, study hall and library. What is technology doing there? I think I can safely assume that the experience of a student - at any level - right now is unrecognizably different to the experience I had at university in 1996; the main difference being the birth and growth of the internet in the interim. But did the internet cause the change or merely encourage it? I'd argue neither. The internet grew and the people used it. As more people used it, the internet grew more. The internet became more useful to more people as more and more people were able to manipulate it. So more and more people used the internet. It has been an organic process despite it being an entirely inorganic invention. 

Future reform may well be just as the internet was 20 years ago. Limited only by our imaginations. 


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TMA02.... a week later

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Saturday, 2 Jun 2018, 14:24

I submitted my TMA a few days early as I was going on holiday and wanted it off my desk!

I actually completed it a few days before I submitted it but was reluctant to actually hit the send button. I was also reluctant to read through the completed assignment another time as I was concerned I might notice it was absolute tosh! 

In the end the H800 WhatsApp group encouraged me to submit and forget and that it what I did! Then I went to Cornwall for a week with my family (17 of us aged between 4 and 76) in the sunshine by the sea. It was glorious. 

As before I cannot judge how the TMA was! I had to rethink parts of it quite radically as I re-read and re-understood the question. In the end this was what I did:

Part 1a - a critical view of the net-generation

Are young people today really qualitatively different because they grew up with the internet? Not really

Part 1b - reading Price et al

Does the convenience of distance learning mean the potential loss of experience is worth it? All depends!

Part 1c - blogs and blogging

Reflect on your learning people! It's really cathartic and useful! 

Part 2 - redesign an activity

Everyone should blog! Rename it learning journal and give people some examples of how they could use the tool.

Part 3 - new research

Do some side by side comparisons of learning activities and their distance learning equivalents - do both types of exercise with the same group of students for control purposes. 

Hmmmm...... not sure why it took 4000 words given my super-succinct summary!

Here's a holiday picture! 

Family pic

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A rethink

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Saturday, 2 Jun 2018, 14:12

I've spent hours on the TMA over the last week and particularly over the weekend. 

Unfortunately I have had to dump one of my sections which was more or less developed. I realized - too late - that it simply doesn't answer the question being asked and cannot be realistically manipulated to do so. So no more PowerPoint on the Global Digital Divide. sad

I tried to recall what had engaged me in block 2 by re-reading my blog and re-visited the Price paper about online vs face to face learning. I did some searches in the library and managed to put together a whole 1000 word section in an afternoon, complete with lots of good references and quotes and I am happy with it. 

I am now looking for another 'third' - shall I do the same as I had planned (I haven't done anything on it at all) or look for something new and complementary to the sections I already have (more of less) completed. 

I have 'redesigned' blogging within H800 but the learner experience and methods section is still pretty rambley and I would definitely dump what I have already done if a fabulous alternative idea arose. 

Arrrrghhhh. 

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TMA02 - the panic settles in!

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I want to finish TMA02 by Friday 25th May so I can go on holiday with my family and have a week off. 

This means I now have 8 days to complete the assignment. 8 days to organize my 1000s of words of disorganized notes and quotes into coherent and logical discussion points! 

Here's my plan:

1. The Global Digital Divide - a PowerPoint Presentation

I want to present how the internet growth in Africa (specifically - it's true elsewhere too) is much more driven by smartphones operating on 3G and 4G than by more familiar (to us in the developed world) laptop and broadband set ups. Many OERs have been developed and made available which should help teachers and learners in Africa but it depends on what those OERs are. If they're videos - especially HD videos - then the data munching will make viewing them expensive and potentially time consuming and jumpy! Plus - if they're watching it on a smartphone screen the picture will be so small that only one or two other people can even share the experience. 

I am going to suggest that the growth of smartphones should impact how teachers choose to teach and how learners can best learn - and especially how the developers of OERs should proceed! 

2. The Net Generation - 1000 words

It seems so intuitive that growing up with the internet will make you qualitatively different that actually suggesting students are still, in the essentials, much as they've always been sounds blasphemous! My argument here is not that student have changed due to the internet but that education has not changed for decades. It is not fit for purpose now - with all the available technology and resources - but it wasn't really fit for purpose before then either. The technology has presented new challenges and new solutions but using technology for the sake of it without a well grounded pedagogy is a fruitless as refusing to use technology because 'chalk and talk' worked very well for hundreds of years! 

I want to suggest that practitioners must be strategic in how they employ technology and learners still need to put the brain work and metaphorical elbow grease in! 

3. Blogs and blogging - 100 words

Reflective learning fits neatly into the social constructivist theory of learning and learning journals and learning diaries have supportive literature going back decades. The blog is a new, and I would argue, improved version of this. Firstly it's much harder to lose and much easier to edit. Secondly it can (if the writer wishes) engage other students and tutors in debate and conversation. Thirdly it provides a record of a learning journey which adds to the resources for future learners. 

Practitioners who employ this reflective tool are providing scaffolding which will, all being well, result in learners becoming self-directed, independent and not teacher dependent. Learners writing a blog may find it extremely useful for organizing thoughts, having a moan, reflecting on a side tangent and planning a TMA!

4. How would I redesign blogging in H800 

I would incorporate it with the forums. Lots of people write long reflections in the forums (fora?) and I am sure they also have long reflections about less specific questions and about the tangents and active mind inevitably travels. It is a shame if these thought processes and reflections are lost to the rest of us because they don't neatly fit into a forum question. As a learner I would benefit greatly from this - and for more interaction with my own blog posts. 

Making reflection a mandatory activity is fraught with difficulty! I'm going to have to think about it!

5. Which aspects of ‘learner experience’ do you think should be investigated – either on H800 or in your own context – and which methods would you use to do so?

I haven't got here yet! I guess I ought to look to my own context as a professional rather than as a learner given that my last activity was learner based. Maybe I could assess how much doing endless practice MCQ questions benefits a learner over more visual, interactive or 'deep learning' methods. 

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The narrowing of the digital divide

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Tuesday, 15 May 2018, 23:00

One of the activities I plan to write about in my TMA is the Global Digital Divide. When doing this activity a few weeks ago I looked at the region (ha!) of Africa (a pretty big region!) and speculated that the provision of OERs by western universities would be unlikely to be helpful to most people in Africa as internet connectivity was both rare, poor and expensive. I looked up infographics to show how the undersea cabling simply didn't reach Africa as strongly as it reached North America and Europe.

https://www.submarinecablemap.com/#/

I assumed that the vastness, and relatively emptiness, of the African continent meant that stretching the infrastructure from the coast inland simply hadn't been done and therefore, the videos, quizzes, resources and lectures being provided 'for free' would not actually contribute to the improvement of the learning environment for Africans but rather sit there uselessly - an unusable but expensive white elephant. 

However - this was based on the information linked to by H800 - mostly at least 5 years old. 

I've now done some much more up to date research (aided by the hive mind that is Facebook and specifically three computer-y friends who exploded with geekiness upon being asked for advice and information!) and see that the global digital divide is narrowing - pretty much before our eyes in a visible way. 

This website is full of very up to date information about the whole world and if, how and why it connects to the internet. 153 pages of fascinating data. Yet not one which expressly refers to learning or education. Lots about social media, banking, commerce... but no learning.

I also was linked to this initiative by Facebook which also fails to explicitly refer to education and learning except for two video diaries of learners - one school boy and one adult learner. It addresses connectivity and some of the technical efforts they are making to address the shrinking inequality. 

Other projects were linked to which had the aim of both strengthening the internet connection in Africa, and utilizing it for the common good in various ways - though education was, once more, notable in its absence. 

So it's back to the drawing board! I think that 10 years ago my planned plea for OERs to be made in text form, avoiding bandwidth munching pictures and videos, would have been right on the money! However - now I think I will have to rethink. Maybe the same problems which always faces schools in Africa will be the key - simply having buildings, teachers, uniforms and equipment will continue to be the challenge. The equipment may be more technological, and the teachers may need more training and the buildings may need internet connectivity.... yeah - there's still 1000 words in that!

 


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School yard gamifications

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I've been pretty occupied with the TMA in the last few days but I made time for my weekly coffee break with a group of friends this morning. One friend, Viv, is an early years teacher with oodles of experience. She asked what I was doing and I gave some vague response (if I get too specific I get too excitable and then talk about it for too long) and she immediately began to muse of the usefulness of gamification (she didn't use that exact word) for repetitive practice tasks with young children.

Learning times tables, or spelling, or basic maths and science can be boring. A child may have some basic tools but the current pedagogy (as has ever been so it seems!) is to require a lot of repetition and testing to drill down these skills. She cited the times table competition web sites which can turn an hour of times table homework into a class competition complete with certificates!

I began to muse that with touch screen tablets children could actually write our spellings and software could actually interpret and mark their efforts. Viv then suggested that the software could also record the type of words a child was struggling with (a specific phoneme, words with non phonetic letters) and assign more of these words to help them crack it; personalized and responsive lessons and learning. 

She has a rather negative view of technology enhanced learning overall - it seems because it has become 'required' of her (despite the fact she teaches 4 year olds) to create and teach from PowerPoint presentations. Despite the fact that she immediately could see potential in a technological approach and was mentally devising algorithms to utilize screens in the classroom, she has already been turned off the idea of a new pedagogy by the blanket and inappropriate imposition of an existing one.

Most of our studies in H800 have been about adult learners but technology can, does and must also enhance the learning environments of children.   

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The advantages of blogging in learning

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I did not plan to be an OU blogger but the option of 'access to your personal blog' on the StudentHome page caught my attention and the rest is history. 

I have found blogging my journey with H800 (so far) useful on a number of levels

  • Sometimes ideas occur to me which I want to flesh out a little but which don't really fit into the forums and which I don't imagine my fellow students to be especially interested in (though I am, obviously, happy for them to engage on the blog)
  • As I make notes about tutorials, webcasts, papers etc. then blogging them firstly means I have had to organize my scribblings into coherent sentences and points, and secondly I know I will always be able to find them!
  • I will get very engaged in a specific point which I want to record and reflect upon. 
  • The emotional aspect of studying again after 20 years is considerable. Blogging is a vent to some of those doubts, frustrations and joys
  • If I make my blog posts public (which I do) it is a way for other people to engage with what I am doing - entirely on their own terms (not by me backing them into a corner and talking excitedly about what I am learning for hours!)

TMA2 offers an opportunity for me to write about how blogging is, and could be, used in education and learning, I can anticipate many of the administrative and organizational objections but I can see huge opportunities for a better learning experience, and more effective learning, for learners. 

When blogging was an 'activity' on H800 the response of most students was, at best lukewarm. I got that! It was not exactly required, but it was 'encouraged'. I immediately understood why it would be a useful activity for people but the activity didn't explain it well. It certainly failed to inspire students to use their blogspace. A few wrote a few posts but there was palpable reluctance! 

In the TMA I plan to explore how the reflective and organic nature of a personal blog can facilitate very deep learning - and circumnavigate the ever present threat of 'strategic learning' whereby students learn exactly what is necessary to pass the course, rather than aiming to get a full and deep and broad appreciation of the subject being learned. 

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Being first!

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The OU week runs from Saturday to Saturday and as I work a reasonably normal Monday to Friday week I try to get a good chunk of OU stuff done at the weekend. If the OU demands 15 hours per week (this varies a bit to be honest) then I want to get between 30% and 40% done before I go to work on Monday. 

It seems I am alone in this though as for the past couple of weeks I have arrived at the 'discuss this in the forum' bit of the activity and found that only the tutor has left a comment thus far (basically the question) which means I have to go first! Of course I don't have to. I have written my responses in Word with the intention of copying and pasting them into the forum after a few people have had their say first (obviously I would check their comments to ensure I hadn't said something utterly stupid first!) but even I can see this is a bit foolish! 

I suppose it is like that moment at a social gathering when no one wants to be the first to break into the buffet or be the one who cuts the cake or even the first on the dance floor. The validation you get from joining in is far more enjoyable than the risk you take in striking out first! 

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Crushing on Michael Wesch... just a little bit!

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Saturday, 5 May 2018, 15:21

Saturday is 'new week' day for OU students so I try to get a good start and spend a few hours studying so that I don't have to play catch up later in the week. The first activity for this week began with some interesting (slightly dry!) summaries of various studies looking at how learners use technology in their learning and whether the very process of learning may be changing as technology offers more and more options. After a few pages of these we get presented with this video by Michael Wesch who also produced this video which I found profoundly helpful - and moving - earlier in H800. At that time I watched a few talks by him on YouTube. He is an inspiring figure. 

Anyway - I wish I had watched the video and then read the text-reports. I'm not surprised to find a well made, slickly produced and cleverly devised video to be more engaging than academic reports - what did surprise me was that when I re-read the text summaries of those reports it all made a bit more sense to me. The medium really is key - and that seems to be the foundational point of every conclusion by every researcher in this area. 

There is debate over whether 'young people' (Digital Natives, Google Generation, Millennials) are fundamentally different in some way having grown up with technology. What there can be no serious disagreement about is that they are growing up in a world unlike any anyone else ever has grown up in; and that they, possibly more than any generation before them, have seen such profound and massive cultural change and will see more and more of it with each passing year of their lives. A multitude of agencies are trying to catch the attention of this generation with the technology. The agencies have to be cleverer and cleverer because the young people are getting savvier and savvier! Agencies who seek to engage learners with technology to enhance their studies also have to be cleverer and cleverer! 


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TMA 2.... tentative makeshift attention

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I want to get TMA2 in early as I am going on a long anticipated family holiday for the week and want it off my desk and out of my head! So I am starting to think about it. 

Tentatively my 3 activities for the 1000 word sections are to be:

1. Wikipedia / Stacks (I must choose one as a primary but can refer to the other) 

OR 

Blogs and Blogging (Both are from week 10 so I can't do both)

2. Global digital divide - referring to OERs. I'd like to expand my research into internet connectivity and access in Africa (particularly sub-Saharan Africa) and consider how OERs could genuinely be developed to be helpful rather than another adjunctive service for developed world learners. (Week 11)

I think I may take up the chance to do this section as a PowerPoint. I think it lends itself nicely to a few infographics and images. I had a quick search for some and there are lots - though many of them are quite old so I must be careful.

3. Something from the future! 

So far nothing in Week 12 has grabbed me but that might change after the tutorial as last time I got quite fired up about Sfard and her metaphors for learning! 


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Paralinguistic Cues

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Wednesday, 2 May 2018, 15:34

Don't you just love it when you get the vocabulary to succinctly define and describe an idea you've been struggling to articulate?

I got that this morning when reading Price et al. describing the research carried out about students perceptions depending on whether they experienced face to face tutoring, or online tutoring. 

In my last TMA, and in various forum posts, I have expressed my own unease with the online tutoring format. I fully accept that MAODE - being the study of online and distance education - would be subject to some ironic eyebrow raising if face to face activity constituted any of its activity but the complete lack of 'being in the same room' as my tutor and tutor group is something of a gear change for me and one which is a little sticky! 

It's funny because I am very adept and comfortable in written forum situations - Facebook is my online home - and I find the forums very satisfying if not as user friendly as Facebook (I'd love to be able to 'like' a post rather than comment on it, I'd like to be notified if someone responds to something I have posted, I wish that the 'threads' of conversations were more easily defined so we could see who was replying to whom etc.) but I am finding the online rooms more tricky.

My idea is that were we all in a room together the tutor would be able to see if someone looked confused, and conversely if someone looked like they'd had a lightbulb moment! People struggling to articulate an idea wouldn't be talking to a broadly silent online room but may be assisted and prompted by their peers and tutor. If someone was desperate to make a contribution that would be evident by their body language, and if someone hadn't managed to get a word in edgeways then it is easier to identify a person who hasn't contributed rather than a voice you haven't heard. These paralinguistic cues enable a smoother and, for me at least, more satisfying encounter. 

I absolutely concede that this may simply be 'my problem'. I am an extrovert (a pretty garrulous one!) and this means of communication (a group chat so to speak) is entirely new to me. I am hoping to get more adept at it, and more comfortable. I also think the technology is not quite up to speed yet - there appears to be a delay in the voices (much like an international phone call from years ago) which further complicates the interaction. 


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Richardson's helpful bullet point lists

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I do like a list! And this paper was full of them! 

Firstly was the three approaches to studying:

  1. A deep approach based on understanding the subject
  2. A surface approach based on memorizing pertinent facts
  3. A strategic approach based on getting good grades

In fairness to the author it was explicitly stated that most students will employ all three approaches at some point in their learning which made a lot of sense as I really could identify with all three! The tension between approach one and three is most interesting - a genuinely engaged learner will really want a broad, deep and satisfying engagement with the subject - to really 'get it' and make the connections necessary to put their new knowledge to work somehow. However - the genuinely engaged learner may also be busy and overburdened and pragmatic enough to know that reading a fourth journal article about a particular subject is unlikely to make any difference to their final grade and therefore lay it aside for striking out into a new curriculum area which may appear on the exam. Tempting as it may be to dismiss approach two - lets be honest - we've all done it!

The next list, how students perceive (define?) learning, began as a five pointer but a sixth was added later:

  1. Learning as the increase in knowledge
  2. Learning as memorizing
  3. Learning as the acquisition of facts or procedures
  4. Learning as the abstraction of meaning
  5. Learning as an interpretative process aimed at the understanding of reality
  6. A conscious process, fueled by personal interests and directed at obtaining harmony and happiness or changing society

Students who reported their learning as being points 1 - 3 were reported as being more 'surface approach' learners whereas the deep learners were more likely to define learning as points 4 - 5. The sixth point was added later and include a more specific purpose to learning. Again - I am pretty sure I could have defined learning in any of these six ways depending on who asked, when and about what. My gut feeling is that this is less about dividing students into groups (the point 2 definers) and more about students defining individual learning experiences. The article also suggests that learners move from points 1 - 6 (presumably in a somewhat linear fashion) as they progress on their learning journeys. 

The final list is a five point list of the approaches employed by teachers to their educating. 

  1. Teaching as imparting information
  2. Teaching as transmitting structured knowledge
  3. Teaching as an interaction between the teacher and the student
  4. Teaching as facilitating understanding on the part of the student
  5. Teaching as bringing about conceptual change and intellectual development in the student

Unlike the other lists - it seems that this one is more fixed. The researchers were 'surprised' that a move towards the bottom end of the list did not seem to be measurable as teachers became more experienced. There is some discussion about how the subject matter a person teaches may necessarily result in a somewhat different approach and also that teachers give the students what they expect and want from their studies. 

We are discussing this paper in our Tutorial later this week; and there will be a forum about it (which I haven't looked at yet as I wanted to read the paper, and jot down my initial reflections before I read what other people had thought.)

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I'm Lovin' It!

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I just wanted to blog quickly about how much I am enjoying this journey. I know I moan a bit but I am really enjoying being 'a student' and learning something new and engaging. 

I think I am still somewhat afraid that I am totally unqualified to do this, and incapable of doing it well, and that any minute I'll be exposed as 'not really knowing what you're doing' but until any of those things happen I will enjoy the whole thing as much as I can. 

The only downside is that it is making me wonder what other hugely interesting subject areas are there and trying to schedule time to study those as well! The introduction this week to OERs did not help! 

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Internet Usage - around the globe

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(Assuming there's not Flat Earthers reading this!)

We were sent to an external site to look at internet usage in different global regions and then individual nations this week. Amusingly the OU warned us that we may see advertisements for 'dating agencies'..... shock horror!

The information appeared interesting and complex at first but soon I was able to distill the essential features into a few bullet points!

  • 40% of a very large number is much more than 90% of a much smaller number. (Far more Asians than North Americans use the internet even though the internet is far more available to North Americans - because there are far more Asians overall)
  • The more people who already use the internet, the fewer new users are available to grow internet use (Europe and North America saw very significant growth between 2010 and 2015.... in the 100s of percent. But Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America saw growth in 1000s of percent.) 
  • If current trends continue then internet use will stagnate at more or less 100% of people in the developed world and internet providers will concentrate on Asia and Africa as having the most unreached internet users. 

Stats charts

I've created a pair of pie charts to compare where the people live vs where the internet users live. They're not identical by any means but they're not radically different either.

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