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Questions from the Conference

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I found blogging really scary. How do you overcome that Anna?
I suppose, in common with everything we find scary, by doing it! It's only scary if you are worried there is a 'wrong' way to blog. There is a million right ways to blog and no wrong ways (assuming you're not planning to incite crime!).

I didn't think of it as an online filing cabinet. That's interesting.
We store so much online now - photos, diaries, documents. A blog can be an extension of this.

Did you look at whether bloggers used PCs, laptops, tablets or phones and whether that's shifted?
I didn't even think of this! It could have been an interesting diversion but I don't think it would have changed my focus or conclusions. The caveat to this is where a blog tool doesn't have functionality over many platforms.

There are already loads of channels for online discussions (discussion rooms, etc.). Is there anything about blogs which you think make them more effective than other channels (you might be about to answer this!)
There are lots of online discussion spaces but a blog is one where you get to ask the opening question! Plus it can fulfill so many other functions too.

I have found myself not blogging as have felt it needs consistency in terms of frequency of posts etc - lacking inspiration to do this has stopped me engaging fully. I wonder if this is another reason for lack of engagement.
You blog for *you* and not for your audience (or at least that's what I do). If I don't post for a while I don't feel guilty. As for inspiration - I find blogging allows me to record and expand on moments of inspiration in my studies but also has trained me to look for inspiring and thought provoking things to post about. It helps me both record and seek interesting and engaging subject matter.

That's one of my concerns too - if I started I feel I'd have to post regularly to maintain continuity and 'presence'. I wonder if there is a link with people using the blog privately?
Your blog is for you. You can (depending on the tool) opt for a range of privacy settings. If you seek to gain and maintain an audience you might want to post regularly and publicly. If it's just for you and / or a small group of people then you can blog exactly as you wish.

I did this for a while when I lacked confidence.
The blogosphere can feel like a lot of people shouting for attention but it's just as full of private people who selectively record and sometimes share their journeys in an accessible and cloud based way.

good recommendations Anna - I think the OU blog tool could be improved.
Definitely - and thanks

I use pen and paper. I've kept a journal for years; I guess the difference is that I don't share them. I wonder how many blogs that are shared are actually read by anyone else?
I used to journal using pen and paper for years and years. I didn't share them but it was always at the back of my mind that my notebooks may be found and published posthumously! I don't know how many blogs are read regularly - as a percentage of bloggers probably not many. But - I have not actively sought engagement and yet I have (to date) almost 40,000 views on my blog. I must be posting about something that someone is interested it! That's NOT my motivation though - just a realisation that sometimes we can undervalue the things we put out into the world. Just because we don't think anyone will be interested doesn't mean that no-one will be.

Oh wow. How do you keep the files you have stored if you lose it when you leave? Do you lose it immediately?
I think there is a 3 year 'grace period'. I will certainly be investigation how I am able to keep mine. As it is a 'public' blog then it will probably remain viewable to all but I may well lose access to continue contributing. If I had know how useful I was to find blogging I may have started using another tool. That said - the convenience of the OU blog tool means I can easily reach it when I am studying and want to record a thought or idea.

I agree - I don't think students are necessarily 'aware' of it. Wouldn't say it's flagged up at all on any of the (UG STEM) modules I tutor.
There are definitely some STEM students using the tool and, I was told, it's far more heavily used in some STEM areas. Some of the posts I reviewed went completely over my head they were so sciencey!

the question of whether to oblige (or very heavily encourage) students to use blog posts is really interesting - I remember this question coming up in H800 with 'making' students use discussion boards by it being part of assessment. Do you think the benefits would justify making it part of assessment?
I think that mandatory use of the blog may, for some, spark a very useful learning habit. I think the problem with it is that people are just told 'blog about it' and they often have no idea where to begin. I think that if learners were directed towards a few examples of good blogs as examples it would reassure them that there isn't a correct method and that the tool is there for them - not they for the tool.

DO you think an OU Blog is a training tool before considering a tool like Wordpress?
Possibly - less functionality does mean easier so for a complete novice the lack of bells and whistles may actually make the whole process less intimidating.

How often did bloggers look back over their -- or others -- blogs?
I didn't ask. I can say that I look over my own blog quite often. I am not very engaged with anyone else's though!
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The conference and the lost page

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It's fair to say I was nervous! It all began ok. Tech set up was fine and my slides appeared as they were supposed to.

I began to read my notes, click through the slide show... all was well....

And then my notes and my slides didn't match! I had lost my place. I didn't quite 'die' but it was close.

I now know exactly what happened. I had printed my notes out and, to save paper, I had printed it double sided. This meant I read one side, turned over the sheet, read the second side, discarded the sheet, read the top side of the next sheet and so on.... I got mixed up and discarded too soon. I stumbled.

People were very kind and said I had coped well, and that my project came across anyway but I was super frustrated. So I recorded the conference presentation as I wish I had managed to do it!


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Presenting the "Paper"

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My paper about the OU blog tool specifically, and the use of blogs in education and learning more generally is far from written. In fact - I have a whole heap of data and a lot of ideas but only the faintest of conclusions and nothing like a logical narrative in my internal thinking about it all. This does not bode well for presenting the 'paper' which has not only remained unwritten but is still, as I write, unplanned.

I have decided to make my presentation mostly narrative in style. I cannot be alone in finding academic and statistical presentations somewhat difficult to concentrate on and enjoy! I want to use the words people said to me (actually wrote to me) above to demonstrate some of the statistics I have gleaned from my post analysis.  

That said - I have hit a bit of a wall. I have created a presentation which is okay but I am not convinced it is as good as I can make it. I have to submit it on Tuesday so I don't have a lot of time to play with but I'm going to have a go at sketching out my paper in my detail so I can make sure I can do as I have been asked - present my paper. As things stand I am more likely to find myself writing a paper to expand my presentation! Less than ideal!

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Who, Why, What and How....

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My project title was developed after, oooh, about three seconds of careless consideration!

However - my throwaway but catchy words have actually helped me form a mental structure of the eventual project output which has eased my general panic over the last couple of weeks (possible a bit too much!).

Who blogs?

Who used the OU blog tool? In short - not many people. I have been unable to get official figures but there are around 168,000 OU students and about 50,000 public blog posts each year. Given that a small number of blog users are quite prolific and a lot of individual student blogs consist of a single post (or three at the maximum) it's not unreasonable to assume that usage is low. Of course there may be private blogs in the system too but even assuming a generous 'three times as many' it still means that each OU student uses the blog tool less than twice each year. The blog is only open to current students and staff.

Why is there a blog tool?

The blog tool is part of a suite available to OU students. Different courses may feature different extra options but the blog tool is part of StudentHome. The potential for the blog is a part of the body of research and theory surrounding technology enhanced education - practitioners can see how it could function as a reflective learning journal, an online collaborative space or a 'can't be lost' repository for ongoing work and activity. There is lots of sound pedagogical research surrounding the activities which blogging is thought to be a technological enhancement of but somewhat less about how much it has (so far) fulfilled the theoretical promise.

What do people blog about?

The blog post analysis revealed a few indisputable patterns.

1. Some people who blog a lot often simple use their blog as a journal. There may be some reflection within it but essentially it's a diary.

2. Other people blog a lot and their posts are short, thought provoking, amusing.

3. Some people only blog when their tutor requires it.

Defining the 'right' way to blog is counter to the aims of reflective or collaborative practice but it doesn't look like this tool is principally being used for either of those things.

How can good blog use be encouraged?

I have got a lot of comment here from OU students (past and present) and some tutors, VLE designers and other experts. I hope to add narrative from different perspectives here. There are many stories of good blog use.

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Attention! Reflect and Collaborate!

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Now the TMA is done and the conference presentation scheduled it's time to do the actual project and write the actual paper!

I have a whole heap of 'data' now - most of it is essentially qualitative. To be honest I prefer quantitative data - I'm not a scientist but I find numbers easier to draw a conclusion from than words. This is especially true in this case where my quotes are often quite definite and strong and entirely contradictory to each other! The fact is I have not been able to get any firm numerical data from the OU. (I will keep trying - there are a few weeks to go) and my numerical data is based on a google search about the number of OU students and the number of blog posts which are visible.

My initial assessment is that the OU blog tool does not work well for collaboration. Unlike external blogs it is not really easy to subscribe or keep track of who commented on what. OU students have other tools within the VLE, and outside of it, where they can collaborate much more easily. This observation is supported by an analysis of a sample of OU blogs - comments are rare and long comment thread even rarer.

However - the OU blog tool can (and does) work well for reflection. Reflection need not have an audience (indeed many express a preference for their work to be private) but it seems not only possible to gain insight and understanding from other learner's reflections but it seems almost commonplace.

I'm hoping to collate key quotes from all of my research to date to, if not draw a firm conclusion then, offer insight into barriers which discourage effective blogging and keys which encourage it based on the testimony of OU blog users.and OU non-blog users.



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Poster and Abstract - The Who, Why, What and How of the OU blog

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Tuesday, 14 Jan 2020, 20:18




The value of reflection and collaboration is broadly accepted within learning and education. Reflective journaling and collaborative work have long been part of ordinary and common learning and studying practice. As with so many aspects of pedagogy the advent of the internet has offered new technological enhancements to augment traditional activities – extending their reach, convenience of use, functionality and a network of examples of good practice. 

In this presentation the way in which OU students use the provided blog tool to reflect and collaborate will be described and insight into how further such activity can be encouraged will be given. 

The blog is potentially, and reportedly, a valuable tool for both reflection and collaboration – the main two aspects considered within this paper (Mohamed 2013, Byington 2011).  The blog can provide a learning journal which cannot be lost, within which there is a search function and which can, if the writer desires, provide support and encouragement to numerous other learners.  The blog could enhance and extend the capacity for collaboration to be less bound by geographical and synchronicity constraints.

Including a blog function within a VLE is a way which institutions can offer access to these benefits to their learners at little expense or effort. However – provision of a tool is not, on its own, enough to guarantee effective use, or indeed any use. A blog tool is not an example of a feature where ‘build it and they will come’ seems have much validity! (Shana, 2015)

There are many reasons learners may not perceive the value of blogging: they may perceive it as an additional and unwelcome chore; they may lack confidence with the technology; or they may simply feel that they have little to contribute. Unless students use the tool neither party gains any benefit.

Yet blogging cannot become a ‘requirement’ and remain useful. Collaboration and reflection cannot be truly effective unless undertaken voluntarily and formulaic reflection or mechanical collaboration will not confer any benefit and may be counterproductive (Chang 2019, Fernsten 2005, Musanti 2010). Institutions can encourage learners to reflect and collaborate (using a blog) in the hope that benefits become obvious and habits form, and for some learners this will be enough to begin their blogging journey with all the associated benefits. For others it won’t be - and those learners may benefit from other tools to facilitate reflection and collaboration.

In this paper there is

  • an analysis of a sample of public blog posts on the Open University VLE.
  • results of a survey asking OU students if, how and why they use the blog tool provided
  • details of deeper conversations about how individuals have benefited from, or not, using the blog tool
  • a literature search detailing blog use in reflective practice and collaboration within learning
  • applications for learners, educators, institutions and within wider extra-learning contexts.

This presentation may be of interest to VLE developers, online learning designers, students and tutors.

Key Words: Blogs, Reflection, Collaboration, Learning Design, Virtual Learning Environment

 

Byington, T. A. (2011) ‘Communities of practice: Using blogs to increase collaboration’, Intervention in School and Clinic, 46(5), pp. 280–291. doi: 10.1177/1053451210395384.

Chang, B. (2019) ‘Reflection in learning’, Online Learning Journal, 23(1), pp. 95–110. doi: 10.24059/olj.v23i1.1447.

Fernsten, L. and Fernsten, J. (2005) ‘Portfolio assessment and reflection: enhancing learning through effective practice’, Reflective Practice, 6(2), pp. 303–309. doi: 10.1080/14623940500106542.

Mohamad, S. K. et al. (2013) ‘Pattern of reflection in learning Authoring System through blogging’, Computers and Education. Elsevier Ltd, 69, pp. 356–368. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2013.07.031.

Musanti, S. I. and Pence, L. P. (2010) ‘and Navigating Identities Collaboration and Teacher Development ’:, Teacher Education Quarterly, 37(1), pp. 73–90. Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ872650&site=ehost-live.

Shana, Z. A. and Abulibdehb, E. S. (2015) “Engaging students through blogs: Using blogs to boost a course experience”, International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning, 10(’, International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning, 10(1), pp. 30–38. doi: 10.3991/ijet.v10i1.4240.


Permalink 3 comments (latest comment by Anna Greathead, Wednesday, 26 Feb 2020, 23:27)
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Charting New Waters

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Wednesday, 15 Jan 2020, 13:12

TMA 2 of H818 is proving to be a challenge! So much so that I pursued my time-honoured transition of pretending it wasn't happening for a slightly too long. I suddenly found that I should have done more and that I really hadn't got any clear idea of what I was supposed to do, let alone what I was expected to achieve!

I knew I was doing my overall project - essentially the whole of H818 - on the use of the blog tool with OU students. I knew that the main two benefits of blogging reported in most of the literature was reflection and collaboration so my initial poster simply reflected that:

A large word BLOG with the mirror image reflected in water. Lots of smaller words 'BLOG' interconnected with arrows above.

I liked this poster but, upon seeing the lengths my colleagues were going to, became sure it was too simple. I couldn't see how I could add additional media such as audio or animation as the point of the poster was its simplicity and the room it allowed the viewer to make their own interpretation.

I remembered the TED talk by Amanda Palmer which we viewed a few weeks ago. The point we were supposed to get was about open access models but what most struck me was the power of story telling. The reason I find blogging helpful and one of the reasons I believe blogging is so popular is because of the power of stories. It therefore made sense to give my poster an element of story telling too.

With this in mind I created a narrative path of two people - one of whom blogged for reflection and the other who blogged for collaboration. I wanted to underline that both paths were both theoretical and actual uses and benefits of blogging, and that both augmented and enhanced learning.

Using PowerPoint I have added an audio track which are also on the slide and viewable to anyone not able to hear the audio.

This has been very 'out of the comfort zone' for me... but I guess that's the point! I also having to write an accessibility statement, an abstract and an essay detailing the progress of my project! Argh!

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Storytelling

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Wednesday, 15 Jan 2020, 13:11

My H818 project is to do with blogging. Blogging seems to have become a separate category but it's significant to remember than it's a technologically enabled version of the traditional diary or journal.

The TED Talk by Amanda Palmer was supposed to get me thinking about open source and open access but it actually go me thinking about how powerful stories are. Amanda could have simply told us that she had chosen to change the financing method for her music but instead she told us a compelling and satisfying story. I daresay I will remember a story long after I have forgotten a lecture.

Diaries are deliciously private which is why (maybe!) we love to read them. The Diary of Anne Frank is a world changing book. Other books have been deliberately styled as diaries (think Adrian Mole, Bridget Jones) because, as a species, it seems that we are interested in the mundane lives of other people. The blog simply takes this model online. And opens it up to a much bigger potential audience. Some stories capture the imagination more than others, but each is valid. Some people are more willing to share their stories than others but every story told is a moment in time captured.

I have started to consider how I can present my Blog Project findings in a story format. It could be quite possible to make the point and give the information within this model whilst keeping the readers / audience engaged and entertained.

As for open access and different methods of monetizing creativity - I have to battle again with the ingrained pragmatic assumptions my 46 years have left me with. Another way should be possible - I just find it hard to envision.

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Taking Shape - TMA01, H818

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This TMA is the foundational document for our conference presentation and subsequent EMA. Which means that getting it right will be very beneficial and getting it wrong will create lots of additional work!

I have decided on a few things:

  1. I am doing the blog project. I will investigate the OU blog tool for who uses it, for what and why. I will conduct some primary research for this - both in the form of surveys, questionnaires and interviews and also by analysing a sample of the public OU blog posts which are handily displayed in reverse chronological order on the website!
  2. I will be looking at this through the overall theme of implementation. I am going to assume that blogs are useful both for student reflection and student collaboration (this is not a wild assumption - there is a lot of data) and consider why they aren't used as often or as much as they could be. Where and what are the barriers? How can the barriers be addressed?
  3. My project will be essentially a research project which will be presented as a paper. I hope to create an interesting and attractive poster in TMA02 and an engaging presentation for the conference but the project does not lend itself to the other two formats as naturally
So my hurdle of the week is TMA01. I a writing about implementation - most of the literature I have found seems to concentrate on why institutions and educators might resist pedagogical change or the introduction of technological tools for teaching and learning but I am equally interested in why students may not rush to engage with new methods and new technologies as well.

I wouldn't go so far as to say I feel confident I am on the right track but it's feeling a lot more coherent in my head! (Not always a reliable benchmark if truth be told!).
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Quid Pro Quo

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Friday, 17 Jan 2020, 11:32

Interesting development.

We are all starting to share work in the Open Studio area. The idea is that we share our work, thoughts and so on and get feedback from our tutors and each other.

I have shared a post (similar to the previous blog post) about my ideas for the TMAs, conference presentation and EMA. A few people have fed back to me with encouraging and helpful comments. And I have sought out their work and endeavored to do the same. It just feels right and fair!

Now the logical thing to do would be to look at everyone's work, identify where I had genuine insight and knowledge which may be useful, and contribute mostly in those areas. However - we are not logical creatures. We are relational creatures. I can already see how small communities are likely to form between people who may be working of different kinds of project but who are at the same kind of stage and who have been encouraging and helpful to one another so far.

I have decided to pursue the OU Blog idea for this module. I have found the blog - this blog - to be such a useful tool in my OU journey and I want to see why it's been so great for me and how the tool could be better utilised to ensure other people also benefit from the opportunities for reflection and connection it offers. Not to mention the validation of 30k views and numerous citations in other people's work.

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The Project (capital T, capital P)

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H818 is different to my previous modules. It requires the ongoing development of a single idea / project which is mooted in TMA01, developed in TMA02, presented in the conference and reflected on for the EMA.

The project must have something to do with Openness and also fall under one of the subject areas of inclusion, innovation of implementation.

I have two ideas - neither of which seem ideal but both of which kind of interest me. I am awaiting specific tutor feedback to see which one I should pursue:

1. OU Blogs - who uses them for what

The OU blog has been a revelation for me. I have found it exceptionally useful in a reflective capacity but also for expanding ideas which have piqued my interest and about which I have wanted to explore further. I didn't expect to gain a lot of traction but I have had over 30,000 views of this blog (although far fewer comments and interactions than you might expect). I am really interested to see if other students have found their blogs similarly, or differently, useful and whether the tool is working the way envisaged by the OU initially.

I can imagine getting data from my current and previous OU student groups but also being able to source further OU students through Twitter, Facebook and simply by searching existing blogs for comments and interactions.

I would speak to a small number first to develop good survey questions based on their experiences and comments. Once I had developed a good survey I would place this online and invite as many people as possible to respond. I would include an option to engage in a deeper email conversation for people willing and able to share their experiences more deeply.

Although the OU blogs are not entirely open unless the student allows this they are an example of students producing work which is available to others to reference, discuss and consider. The blog system can promote collaboration and networking as well as promoting reflective practice.

I think that the umbrella here would be implementation and that the presentation of a paper detailing research and findings would be most obvious.


2. Facebook Groups - who uses them for what

My employer administers a number of Facebook groups. A company page, a closed resource page and a private study group page. In total there are over 22,000 members (though obviously many individuals are part of more than one of the groups). The different pages operate slightly differently and garner different levels, and different kinds of engagement. I would be interested to analyse and measure this to see how the groups are being used to distribute educational resources, facilitate collaboration and encourage networking.

It would be difficult to gain consent to use individual's data in the specific report about these groups but as I will be mostly classifying and analysing posts (rather than the people who make those posts) I wonder if this is a less important consideration. I suspect there may be a fine line to tread here and the importance of developing a robust ethical position could not be overstated.

The advantage to this project is that it could enable my employer to better administer and utilise the groups to commercial and educational advantage. This may mean that I am free to use work time to do some of the research!

I think this also most comfortably sits within the 'implementation' area as it is a tool being used to implement many good learning habits and resources. This could be presented as a paper or possibly a workshop on how to best engage people using Facebook.

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Open Scholarship

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Wednesday, 15 Jan 2020, 13:12

I can already see that my personal leap forward in H818 is a renewed grasp of what open scholarship is - not least because of the keynote talk by Martin Weller which opened the H818 conference in 2018.

Martin described how, as the internet began to move into educational settings and learning environments, paradigm shifting predictions were made. When a bleak future is foretold then it is hardly surprising that the steps en route to the predicted outcome are resisted!

As Martin astutely points out - we have not seen the end of the university, nor has the theoretical promise of the MOOC actually altered the landscape of learning forever. We have, however, seen a definite and significant change in the way the learning and teaching is conducted and experienced. We have also seen a similar change in the way the scholarly research and debate.

My studies within MAODE have incorporated quite a lot of thought and discussion about OERs (Open Educational Resources) but I confess that the idea of data being made available for repeated analysis by researchers with different hypotheses had never occurred to me! (I had rather thought that an OER was mostly a sharable and editable lesson plan or learning resource).

The idea of Open Journals seemed to be a non-starter to me as I considered how both authors and journals would be paid for their work but the talk made me realise that many authors may be happy to be 'paid' in citations and reach. (I assume they have income from elsewhere?).

The use of blogs and social media within learning has been a common theme within MAODE but Weller made me consider again that these are not necessarily inferior to journals and conferences in their impact as they may afford a wider reach and greater engagement and connection.

My blog here is close to 30,000 views as of today. I do check the blog counter. I do get some pleasure from the idea that someone, somewhere, has found my ideas and reflections to be valuable. I even like the fact that I know various MAODE colleagues have cited me! Is this blog on a par with an academic journal? Probably not if someone is looking for closely researched and data driven conclusions but maybe if someone is looking for the honest experience and reflections of someone studying, using and providing online education and learning.

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Starting H817, a learning journal

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Tuesday, 22 Jan 2019, 21:52

I am trying to get a head start on H817 as I will be away on holiday for a week near the beginning. My experiences of H800 convince me that this won't be the end of the world as long as I work hard before and after.

The first paper we had to read was by Park and is about the value of a Learning Journal. This immediately reminded me of some reflections I made in H800 and a little digging led me to TMA02 in which I wrote about the 'Blogging' activity. Unlike many of my OU compatriots I had found blogging as part of H800 to be extremely valuable. A place to record various trains of thought, to link areas of study to areas of experience and to expand on ideas sparked by tutor group discussions was both interesting and useful for my ongoing learning journey. 

This paper would have been so valuable but I didn't find it! I was gratified to see that Park had wrestled with a similar issue as I had discussed - if it's mandatory people may not get the value as they'll do it under sufferance; but if it's not mandatory people may not get the value as they probably won't do it! 

I didn't deliberately take five months off from study. The day I handed in my EMA I visited to 'what to study next' tab and found I had missed the deadline for October starts by only one day. I took this as a sign that my mind, family and laptop needed a break. (Dare I confess that my free evenings have become slightly dull?!) but I am now raring to go on H817. Especially as I have enjoyed the first paper so much!

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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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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 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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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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