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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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Smart Cities

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We are deep within an old debate on the Economist about Smart Cities and whether they are empty hype. 

Confusingly the proposer and opposition seem to be arguing something not entirely opposed! One is concerned that any development is principally developed from the bottom up in an organic kind of way, the other sees the value in that but also argues that the best results will come when there's an abundance of data which is something larger corporations and government agencies can more easily collect!

I think that Smart Cities are inevitable. They may not look like the utopian visions of urban perfection depicted in some sci-fi films but as our individual lives become more and more dependent on data driven technology then it seems inevitable that our collective lives will as well. 

Here are some examples of 'smart' innovations which make my life (as a city dweller) easier:

  1. Apple Maps. I use this even on regular and well known journeys as it is live and helps me avoid the worst of the traffic.
  2. Uber. No more must I phone a taxi company and find they have no cars near me so I must phone another. Now I tap the app and a car arrives within ten minutes to take me where I need to go. And I don't need cash. It's already connected to my debit card.
  3. Just Eat. I can experiment with a variety of local takeaways without them needing to push a glossy leaflet through my door
  4. Birmingham City Council - I have a login which allows me to report missed refuse collections, get up to date information on things like school closures, even report a dead animal which need to be removed. 

I realise this is all 'small fry' compared to the vision being debated but I can easily envision a future where other innovations begin to make other areas of my life easier. I'd love, for example, an app which directed me to the nearest coffee shop with a few spare tables on a Saturday afternoon! It would require me to be tracked and live data from the cafes but it might share out the business more fairly and ensure that customers get a better experience as none of them have to queue for too long or sit in a too crowded environment. It would also help staff who could manage a steady stream of customers rather than long queues where people are getting grouchy. 

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Slogging and blogging

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Week 10 has been full of interesting H800 activities and full of Anna's professional and personal activities so it's been something of a busy time and I reach the first day of week 11 without having really done justice to week 10. 

I am not sure if it was intended but I feel that week 10 has been inviting us to consider the motivations of people, institutions and maybe even ourselves. 

We began by thinking about Wikipedia and how much we could rely on it given what we know, and have learned, about the politics behind the editing and writing process. Wikipedia seems, on the surface, to be benevolent and good; concerned with making as much information available to as many people as possible without charging. It is easy to understand their model - they don't pay experts to write the articles and check for accuracy - they engage experts with the overall ideal and get them to do it for free! And they do! The credentials of the 'experts' are not checked and anyone can self proclaim as an expert. Vandalism and mischief should abound surely.... and yet neither do. The project is now so big that almost all edits - both mischievous and genuine ones - are checked very quickly and Wikipedia remains remarkably accurate overall. I find myself trusting Wikipedia because all of those mischief makers can't stand against the majority of people who stand with the Wikipedia ideal and want to give the user good, accurate information. 

Of course - an analysis of Wikipedia for 'facts' (the population of nations, the height of mountains, the careers of politicians) is one thing. An analysis of Wikipedia's reporting of 'issues' (Palestine and Israel, gender politics, abortion law) may well reveal a particular worldview prevails. 

Next we looked at Stack.com (and I quickly went to similar sites such as Quora and Yahoo answers) where individuals ask questions and other individuals answer them. The questions are often very practical 'how do you....' rather than the more non specific 'should someone....' Individuals who see a question may also vote for the answer they think is best. I have found these sites very useful. Again - I am aware of the potential for mischief but if someone has asked 'how do you poach an egg?' I would not expect hundreds of people to vote for 'place the whole egg in the microwave without cracking the shell'. I rely on the desire of people to be right - and give /confirm the right information - and the desire of people to be helpful - and give / confirm the right information - over the desire of people to cause mischief or discord - and deliberately give / confirm the wrong information. Of course this benevolent assumption is rather thrown into sharp relief as we learn more about how both the EU referendum in the UK and the 2016 US Presidential election seem to have been deliberately influenced by false, inflammatory and deliberately discordant use of social media in particular and the internet in general. 

And then blogging. I felt a small smug thrill as I realized I was ahead of the curve on this! There were some very interesting articles about what happens when blogging is required (it's not good) and how students use blogging in studies (see all my former posts for a wide representation of reflection, ranting, catharsis and thought development). 

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Neutral Point of View

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The first activity of Week 10 was to do with Wikipedia. 

I love Wikipedia. I know that anyone can edit (vandalise) it, I am aware that most of its regular editors and writers are white, educated, youngish men, I would never rely on it an emergency BUT I love that the sum total of human knowledge seems to reside there! Even the plot of various books, TV shows and plays. There are long articles about fictional characters! 

A bit of directed digging this week has exposed some things about Wikipedia however. I was vaguely aware that the toxicity of 'revert wars' was akin to the nastiness of the comments section of a Daily Mail article about Brexit, however to read the environment being described as it was did alert me to the extent of the problem. I do know that I can't edit Wikipedia anymore since my teenage son went on a Wikipedia vandalizing spree and my IP address has been put on a 'naughty list' somewhere. (Which does, at least, reassure me that action is taking against deliberate vandalism and mischief). 

However - as a user I am not sure this will affect me. I wonder if it should but I don't think it will. Wikipedia not only reminds me 'where do I know that actor from?', 'is Great Gable taller than Helvellyn?, and 'where is the Sargasso sea?' (All recent Wikipedia searches) but it also acts as entry level information on academic and professional studies.

I work for a medical training company despite having no medical training! I have to proof read (for accuracy as well as spelling and grammar) questions written by doctors to test other doctors. I also write questions myself. I sit surrounded by medical text books and with NICE, Patient.co.uk and GPnotebook permanently tabbed on my screen. Sometimes I still struggle to understand though so at that point I often revert to Wikipedia. Not as a primary source - more as background reading! I learn the vocabulary and some key basics in jargon free language. I can then return to my more reliable sources with more understanding and knowledge.

In H800 I have also used Wikipedia. At the beginning terms such as 'behaviorist' were thrown about and whilst I had a vague idea of what the term meant from a sociological point of view I wasn't sure how it pertained to learning. Where did I go to catch myself up - Wikipedia! I didn't cite Wikipedia (even Wikipedia says you shouldn't do that!) but it did furnish me with some useful starter information.

The question we are now pondering is about the 'neutral point of view' which Wikipedia aims to, claims to, present. I have never seen anything which suggests there's any structural bias or systemic attempt to present a single worldview but this is not evidence that no such thing is there. Most people believe their choice of newspaper to be unbalanced and neutral whereas in reality it just matches their own worldview (including me! The Guardian is super central and moderate!)

I can see that news outlets have a ideological position. I can imagine that Wikipedia might even though I can't see it myself right now. And that got me thinking - doesn't everything get written by someone who has their own worldview? Even academic journals?

Our next activity is to do with online question sites and how much we can trust the answers that complete strangers give us, and should we trust the other complete strangers that upvote the answers. Like with Wikipedia - the question is -

How much should we trust each other?

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Weeks 8 and 9, slogging and misunderstanding

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Weeks 8/9 were actually spread out over 3 weeks. Week 8, a week off for Easter, and then week 9. Weeks 8 and 9 actually shared activities which I (numpty) had not realized. I slogged away to get through week 8 so I could enjoy a bit of a break (catch up!) and was still a whole activity from the end when week 9 was supposed to be beginning. I'd worked hard in week 8 and the week off so I was a bit fed up. Then I saw the activities for week 9 were the same as those for week 8. Hence the week 8/9 I suppose!

I'm not sure if it was this slog and misunderstanding but these weeks felt very much like a slog. The first block of H800 was what I expected - how do people use technology to help learning and how well does it work. These weeks fit in with the 'Technology Enhanced Learning' but in a way I hadn't thought about - using technology to design lesson plans, and learning plans more broadly. 

Of course I can see the benefit of this. Planning lessons on a sheet of paper must regularly result in a bit of a scribble as new ideas are inserted, difference activities swap places in the time line, things are crossed out. Planning lessons on a word processing document may result in a tidier plan but surely there is more scope for using technology that simply replacing a paper sheet for a laptop screen (which will likely be printed on a paper sheet). 

It's obvious when you think about it but, it seems, more complicated to enact than to imagine. 

We looked at a wide variety of 'learning design templates' which attempted to provide a base for learning design which encouraged designers to look at their overarching pedagogy, how balanced their program was and what resources would be needed - and then represent the lesson in a graphical and visual manner which could not only be used by the teacher but could also be shared for reuse and repurpose.

The templates we looked at seemed old. There was a few good ideas and some neat tricks but I felt like there must be versions of this which are newer and more streamlined. I asked the Facebook hive mind (I must have almost 100 teachers / educationalists on my friends list) and asked what they did. Some used online templates but after a little digging they were all simply online forms which they completed and then printed. None reported using a template to assist in their planning, simply to record it. Some of them reported 'downloading' complete lesson plans and such like from various (paid for) sites online. 

Later on we looked at 'schemas' (yeah - I had to google that!) which helped us map activities along three spectrums:

  1. Individual and Social
  2. Active and Passive
  3. Information and Experience

Despite our discussions about the value of participation and student centric learning - I am still convinced a variety of activities is the best way to learn - even including some passive, information and individual ones! (Such as reading a journal, watching a video or listening to a podcast alone!). 

I enjoyed this mapping as is was a more general and 'big picture' activity. I am finding the very specific 'nitty gritty' activities are harder for me to engage with. The bigger picture things I find I can apply to my experience - as learner and teacher - and also to my context. I find it harder to contextualize things from specific to general than from general to specific. 

Anyway - weeks 8/9 are done! (Thankfully). Week 10 beckons and looks interesting! 

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TMA01.... 68%

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Tuesday, 3 Apr 2018, 10:28

I have been stressed over the past days about the TMA score. I feared it would go badly, hoped it would go well but I hadn't considered my own personal 'badly to well' grade boundaries so now I am now sure how I think I did! 

I got good marks for my forum participation which I expected. I have been active and have received good feedback from both my student colleagues and tutor about my contributions. 

I dropped 3 marks (our of 10) on spelling and grammar which is a slap in the face! Though the feedback notes a couple of OU style omissions (which I confess to having deliberately omitted because of the blasted word count!) which may have been a problem. 

My biggest mark drops were not properly relating things back to my own context (it turns out my own context is not the rich seam of technology enhanced learning examples which I had previously assumed it to be!) and dodgy referencing. The second is especially annoying as I had an extra 24 hours in which I could have reviewed this again but I submitted early to get it out of the way. 

So I have a good 'Pass 3'. 2 marks off a Pass 2. This TMA only counts for 5% of H800 so it doesn't matter much in the overall scheme but it does and will affect my psyche and attitude. 

I am trying to use the Easter Break to crack on but everyone else is on their break which means getting on is tricky as H800 is more collaborative the further it goes! 

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Narratives, representations and designs

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The beginning of week 8 has been building up to the concept of learning design. The first four activities have been very time consuming in terms of what was asked of us, and also of the thought space the ideas have occupied. 

I think I have arrived at something of an epiphany though.

A learning narrative is simply telling the story of learning. All of us have learned and all of us have taught - even if only in a very informal sense. Any parent has taught their child simple things such as the names of colours, types of food, species of animal, different vehicles and so on. None of them write this down as a formal plan. No mum wakes up thinking 'I will teach my toddler about cows today and therefore we shall go to a farm' but if their activities take them past a field of cows and the child takes an interest then she may stop and point to the animals. Explain that they are eating the grass and that we get milk for our cereal from the cows. They may talk about how the cows are black and white and how they're bigger than a dog but not as big as a horse. This is all very informal and responsive to both the environment and the interests of the learner.

If the same mother was asked 'How did you teach your child about farm animals?' she may write down:

  1.  We went for a walk past a field of cows and my child pointed at the animals
  2. We stopped to look at the cows and I asked my child what colour the cows were. My child said the cows were black and white. The child then remarked that the cows were big.
  3. I pointed to a dog walking by and said the cows were bigger than the dog and asked if the child could think of any animals the cows were smaller than. The child thought and then said that a horse was bigger than a cow.
  4. I asked the child what the cows were doing (they were grazing) and the child didn't know. I explained that the cows were eating grass. I told the child that the cows turned the grass into milk and asked when they ate milk. The child said they'd had milk on their cornflakes in the morning. 
  5. The child then lost interest so we continued with our walk.

This list represents the encounter. It describes what happened, some of the thought processes and some of the ways the teacher (parent) directed the learning of the child by answering questions and offering new information. This is more of a report than a lesson plan but the same information is conveyed and the learning experience has been represented in a way which could be analysed, reproduced or repurposed by someone else.

If this encounter were to be 'planned' then the lesson plan may look like this:

  1. Take the child for a walk close to a field of cows
  2. Assess the child's interest in the cows. If the child seems interested encourage them to speak about the cows. The child may remark on the size, colour or physical characteristics of the animal
  3. Ask the child if they have any ideas about the behavior of the animal - what does it eat, where does it sleep, what does it do?
  4. If the child seems interested tell them about milk production and see if they can associate milk with their day to day lives.
  5. Continue chatting until the child has lost interest and then move on. 

This lesson 'plan' is still very learner focused and is in-keeping with a constructivist theory of education - allowing the learner to build on their existing knowledge and learn that which engages their interest. 

A learning design is the next step and may take a broader approach. It may involve planning for any necessary resources, extension activities, and have a more formal plan for setting a learning objective and assessing learning outcomes. It may be more generally worded so that the same lesson idea could be used for other animals! 

I am finding it easier to grasp these concepts when I apply them to the education of young children. I think this may be because it is a setting I am familiar with even though I have never been a school-teacher. I have had four children, I have 'taught' in many mother and toddler / playgroup settings, I have taught Sunday school lessons for my entire adult life. I can easily see how informal, formal and specifically designed learning both differentiates and converges. 

Applying this to classroom learning for adults (or lecture theatre, online tutor group) is more straightforward than applying it to my own setting where our e-learning platform essentially has no interaction between student and teacher. I am having to mentally separate interactive e-learning from online revision. What we actually provide is the latter. This is challenging but I hope that H800 will allow me to develop our services to be more broadly helpful to our learners.  

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Block 2 and this gets real-er

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We are now a week and a bit into Block 2 and it feels different. I had my doubts in Block 1 but I did, at least, feel like I was understanding the material. I may have been interpreting it wrongly but I was understanding it on a level! 

Block 2 has started in a very different manner! Firstly I have not yet received a mark for my first TMA and am feeling mildly insecure about that. I really want a mark.... but I really don't want a bad mark! 

Our first few activities were to do with Learning Design (which I think means lesson planning!) and I have been confused! It took me a while to realize that all eight lesson plans were for the same lesson and it was the actual lesson planning design template which we were assessing. This, once it became clear, was actually interesting. I have asked my Facebook friends (loads of teachers there!) how they plan lessons. I have had a number of responses but they've mainly been to do with sticking to the curriculum than with the template they use. I need to find a way of asking the same question in a less ambiguous way. I can see that a good lesson plan may make the process of teaching, and learning, more satisfying even if the essential elements of the lesson were unchanged. 

I've also decided to go back to basics and become a bit more familiar with some of the basic theories of learning. The words 'behaviourist' and 'constructivist' are being used as if we should know what they mean... so maybe I should! Early on in H800 someone linked to a marvelous website which gives concise and easy to understand definitions so I plan to read them, blog about them and refer to them as I move forward. 

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