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What are MOOCs going to do for learning?

From E-Learning V

Fig.1.  Web 1.0, Web 2.0, Web 3.0. The way it was, the way it is, the way it will be.  J F Vernon (2013)

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are new and FutureLearn, a wholly owned subsidiary of The OU is itself adapting as traditional institutions embrace e-learning, respond to feedback and to results and improve.

MOOCs will be new for a decade.

E-learning like this is not a lecture series online, TV online, a book or book list online, quiz or a tutorial online. Whilst this is invariably the starting place for ‘ground based’ educators, the academics working with instructional designers, not in isolation, need increasingly to begin with a blank sheet rather than looking at the physical assets of academics, books, lectures and papers around them.

What we are witnessing today is that transition from the Wright Brothers to World War One fighter planes: we are seeing hints of the jets to come: we are a long way from drones. I use the analogy having just completed a wonderful three-week FutureLearn MOOC ‘World War 1: Aviation Comes of Age‘. Innovation takes time, though not necessarily violent conflict.

Innovations go through recognisable phases.

E-learning in the forms of MOOCs is still at the stage of ‘early adoption’ – rest-assured they will become commonplace, though surely with a different name? MOOCs can be a hybrid during a transitional phase so long as this is seen as the first step in many away from traditional approaches, embracing what works online.

Academics need to resist hiding away in their silos and welcome into their midst those of us seeking to understand and to integrate the processes involved – that combination of learning and e-learning: how and why we learn (neuroscience and physcology) and how then scale (massiveness), interactivity (digital) and connectivity (openness) changes things. In time, when the academics themselves have reached their accredited status of ‘doctor’ and ‘professor’ through e-learning and when we can call them all ‘digital scholars’ – then we’ll be able to look down from the clouds and smile at how much things have changed.

Think evolution not revolution

Think how long it will take to see out the current generation of academics – thirty to fifty years? Whilst many embrace change, most do not. They chose academia as a lifestyle and fear closer, open scrutiny and engagement. Learning is now experiencing what retail has gone through over the last decade. They are exhilarating as well as scary times.

Ultimately MOOCs are about a combination of sequential activities and ‘interactivities’, collaboration and connection.

Gilly Salmon coined the term ‘e-tivities’: sadly not in common usage, it nonetheless captures beautifully what is required for students to learn online – doing stuff on your own, with other fellow students and with the academics. Academics who like to observe from their ivory towers are failing in a duty as educators, and are missing the opportunity to have their own thinking challenged and refreshed.

Collaboration is a long held view of a kind of learning in ‘communities of practice’ most associated with the academics Lave and Wenger: how working together is a more effective for of constructed learning.

Connectedness as a way of learning is dependent on a few things: the affordances of the platform to permit this with ease: if you have the opportunity compare current student messaging and blogging platforms at your institution with those at FutureLearn which has stripped back the unnecessary and concentrated on this ‘connectivity’; the number and mix of participants: massive helps as a small percentage of a group will be the front runners and conversationalists with others benefiting from listening in, out of choice not pressure and the ‘quality’ of the participants in that they need to have both basic ‘digital literacy’ skills and reliable access based on their kit and connection. ‘Connectivity’ is often associated with the academic George Siemens and is the new kid on the ‘learning theories’ block.

Embrace the pace of change

A lean and smart organisation will tumble over itself, re-inventing and experimenting with ways things are done until clear methodologies present themselves for specific types of learning experience: ‘head work’ is different to’ handiwork’ – academic study is different from applied practice. Subjects freed from books and formal lectures, like the genii released from the bottle will, in the cloud, form into shapes that are most suited to their learners and what is being taught: blended and ‘traditional’ learning most certainly have their place.

Academic snobbery is a barrier to e-learning. 

John Seely Brown, working out of the Palo Alto Research Centre, famous for coming up with the WYSIWYG interface between us and computers and a ‘learning guru’ is passionate about the idea of ‘learning from the periphery’ – this is how and when someone new to a subject, or team, hangs around at the edges, learning and absorbing what is going on at the heart. The wonder of open learning is the participation of equally brilliant and curious minds, some who know a good deal on a subject while others are just starting out, eager to listen, willing to ask questions that may be naïve but are usually insightful; in the two-way exchange both the die-hard academic and the newbie change for the better. Learning feeds of this new fluidity. It is evidence of the ‘democratisation’ of learning.

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Facts in an essays are like pepper in soup

From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Facts in an essays are like pepper in soup

How do you compare and mark a variety of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)?

We need to treat them like one of those challenges they do on Top Gear, where Jeremy Clarkson – ‎Richard Hammond – ‎James May set off to Lapland in a Reliant Robin or some such and then get marks across six or so criteria. Hardly scientific, but it splits the pack.

So, let’s say we take THREE MOOCs, what criteria should there be? 

  • Commitment. What percentage of participants signing up complete the course?
  • Comments. I use the word ‘vibrancy’ to judge the amount and nature of activity in the MOOC, so this is crudely reduced to the number of comments left.
  • Likes. Another form of vibrancy where comments left by the team and by participants are ‘liked’. It has to be a measure of participation, engagement and even enjoyment
  • Correct answers. Assuming, without any means to verify this, that participants don’t cheat, when tested are they getting the answers right. This is tricky as there ought to be a before and after test. Tricky to as how one is tested should relate directly to how one is taught. However, few MOOCs if any are designed as rote learning.

You could still end up, potentially, comparing a leaflet with an Encyclopaedia. Or as the Senior Tutor on something I have been on, a rhinoceros with a giraffe.

It helps to know your audience and play to a niche.

It helps to concentrate on the quality of content too, rather than more obviously pushing your faculty and university. Enthusiasm, desire to impart and share knowledge, wit, intelligence … And followers with many points of view, ideally from around the globe I’ve found as this will ‘keep the kettle bowling’. There is never a quiet moment, is there?

I did badly on a quiz in a FutureLearn Free Online Course (FOC). World War 1. Paris 1919. A new world order … 

I think I got half right. I chose not to cheat, not to go back or to do a Google search; what’s the point in that. I haven’t taken notes. I wanted to get a handle on how much is going in … or not. Actually, in this context, the quiz isn’t surely a test of what has been learnt, but a bit of fun. Learning facts and dates is, or used to be, what you did in formal education at 15 or 16. This course is about issues and ideas. A ‘test’ therefore, would be to respond to an essay title. And the only way to grade that, which I’ve seen successfully achieved in MOOCs, is for us lot to mark each others’ work. Just thinking out loud. In this instance the course team, understandably could not, nor did they try, to respond to some 7,000 comments. They could never read, assess, grade and give feedback to a thousand 4,000 word essays. Unless, as I have experienced, you pay a fee. I did a MOOC with Oxford Brookes and paid a fee, achieved a distinction and have a certificate on ‘First Steps in Teaching in Higher Education’.

As facts are like pins that secure larger chunks of knowledge I ought to study such a FutureLearn FOC with a notepad; just a few notes on salient facts would help so that’s what I’ll do next week and see how I get on. Not slavishly. I’ll use a pack of old envelopes or some such smile For facts to stick, rather than ideas to develop, the platform would have needed to have had a lot of repetition built into it. Facts in an essays are like pepper in soup.

Armed with an entire module on research techniques for studying e-learning – H809: Practice-based research in educational technology – I ought to be able to go about this in a more academic, and less flippant fashion.

French tongue twisters are doubly troubling for the English tongue

From E-Learning V

 Fig.1. Un chasseur sachant : a tongue-twister in French

I just stumbledupon this fun, fun, fun way to pick up some fresh French vocabulary AND with some exceedingly difficult tongue twisters to take your mouth to the gym – very necessary if you are to pronounce much correctly in French. After three minutes of these you’ll feel as if you’ve been chewing the entire packet of ten sticks of Wrigleys’ Spearmint Gum simultaneously.

Open and free learning needs to preach to the converted

Fig. 1 My big sister and me

‘Preach to the converted’ is the mantra of advertising; increasingly it should the mantra of e-learning, and especially of Massive Open Online Courses which are both open and free. Give potential students what they want in a way that they are already open to. Don’t force feed platforms and tools that are foreign to them, nor pander to the book, pen and notebook when by its very nature if you are learning online you are in front of a computer screen. Think more in terms of the needs of the student, than of the willingness of the faculty to give this kind of e-learning a go. Engage someone with a background in communications.

‘Preach to the converted’ ties into the need to know who your students are – in all their diversity. There’s a bunch of personas used by the Open University to help with this. We’re a handful of shifting types across a spectrum of some 12 personas. This helps educators design for hidden, massive audiences.

Fig.2. The Santorini Museum

Big Sis and me both wanted a book from the Santorini Museum.  

We’d done the Akrotiri excavation and did the museum in our separate ways (family event on the island with people arriving at different times and staying in different place. When we met up we agreed immediately at the frustration at no having a shop at either location. You whet your appetite on a subject are ripe for a bit more. I even started looking for a two week course on Archaeology in Future Learn. No book. Not much of a website. Ample content with each artefact.

Visitors to museums are converts; not just easy to sell postcards and tea-towels too, but ready to learn and suckers not just for ‘the book’, but just as prepared to come to the talk, even, these days, to sign up to a taster course.

Augmented Reality Livens up Museums

Augmented Reality Livens up Museums.

Do you know you xMOOC from your cMOOC?

The realities of MOOCs

I stumbled upon this succinct article on MOOCs by Ben Betts.

MOOCs are why I returned to the OU having completed the Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) at the end of 2012. I followed H817:Openness and Innovation in eLearning, joining the Open but, and have now complete two further modules: H809: Research based practices in Educational Technology (with an eye on research) and the phenomenal H818: The Networked Practitioner (just completed) … this as the field keeps transforming I intend to stay abreast of it. Indeed, I’ll keep on eye on H817 for 2015 as this is a considerable advance on the old H807 I did in 2010 that had its content stuck somewhere between 1999 and 2005.

What is interesting in this article is that the author Ben Betts ponders as a passing thought at the end of the piece on the need to ‘learn how to learn’.

This for me is where too many practitioners go wrong – they have their eye so firmly fixed on the ‘next big thing’ that they forget or ignore the understanding we have gained about how we learn over decades. There needs to be a healthy loop that obliges us to consider the basics: learning theories and to see MOOCs in context – all learning is ‘blended’ – even the purely online learning module is conducted by someone with their feet or bum firmly on the ground or in a chair.

The other mistake that other authors make too often is to sensationalise activities or developments such as the MOOC. Every advance builds on something else, and for all their strengths they have weaknesses too, and whatever affordances they have may be exploited or ignored. Interesting times and delighted to find an expert author and practitioner to follow.

What I needed, and got from H809 was a grounding in learning theory which at last I am starting to master. If a further course is required for me it would be more on the application of learning theory, probably in the broader setting of ‘education’ rather than an e-learning context and probably informed by a role educating on the ground – so practice based and applied. Which rather suggests in business – as indeed I did for the best part of 15 years.

What do we know about learner-types by studying museum visitors ?

Fig.1. From the paper LISTEN: augmented audio-augmented museum guide (c) Andreas Zimmermann, Andreas Lorenz (2008)

This is a paper presentation at a conference of a museum visitor guide system that uses a combination of tracking/observation and audio-artifacts to create a personalized visitor experience. The paper reveals the extent of trials, tests and adjusts as well as evaluation which in turn offer ways that a proposal might be in the form of a presentation of the platform or a workshop that might assess how visitors are profile at the start of their visit.

Fig.2 One of the many multimedia moments at the ‘In Flanders Fields’ museum, Ypres. C. 2013 In Flanders Fields

I had in mind some kind of open, mobile personalized learning for use by visitors to military museums, perhaps national trust properties and even battlefields.

Each of these offer very differ user experiences and expectations though. A literary research reveals that the planning for visitors to an exhibition, collection of curated events or gallery is complex and the history of using technology to support visitor experiences is lengthy.

The research for conference papers is approached from  two directions: the standard approach through the OU online library using terms such as ‘museum’ ‘elearning’ and ‘augmented’, while also drawing on personal knowledge of the many digital agencies based on the South Coast (profiles of these companies are available from the regional hi-tech association ‘Wired Sussex’).

Cogapp have been producing digital content for museums since the mid 1980s.

These and other agencies often present ‘papers’ at conferences, though the quality, in academic terms, of these presentations is sometimes questionable – is it promotion or is this the presentation of valid research?

Fig. 3 On Alcatraz. Following my audio guide, but too enthralled to be on site amongst a hubbub of people.

I can also draw upon a personal interest in museums, galleries, and other visitor attractions from national trust properties to battlefields all, or some of which, come with some kind of ‘guide’ – traditionally as a leaflet or guide book (Picasso Museum, Jean Miro), often with an audio guide (Alcatraz, Muir Woods, Royal Academy: Van Gogh, Bronzes), though increasingly from online resources with some attempts to use modern mobile devices (Design Museum, Tate Modern) or to personalize the experience (In Flanders Fields, Ypres). (Great North Museum)

There are major, global conferences on e-learning, some with an orientation towards, or significant presence from the museum sector. Over the last decade there has been considerable interest in improving, through personalization, the visitor experience.

The attraction of this paper, although it is limited to an audio platform whereas I had in mind something visual, the narrative from conception to testing, delivery and evaluation is thorough. It is insightful on studies of the museum visitor experience, curator relationships with artifacts, use and potential of audio and tracking/observation technology – both hardware and software (Zimmermann and Lorenz, 2008:391)

  • motion-tracked wireless headphones

  • current position

  • head orientation

  • individualized and location-aware soundscape

as well as content preparation and feedback on an iterative process.

These approaches will become increasingly sophisticated, discrete and effective for different visitor ‘types’, even reflecting how a person’s behaviour may change during the course of a visit. It is insightful to discover the degree of sophistication for understanding perception types (Zimmermann and Lorenz, 2008:391)

  • self-perception

  • visual

  • tactile space-perception

  • acoustic space-perception

And visitor types:

A definition of personalized (Zimmerman and Lorenz, 2008:394)

  • Adapts

  • Layers of information

  • Increasing levels of involvement

Pedagogical (Zimmermann and Lorenz, 2008:400)

  • increasing knowledge

  • increasing comprehension

  • considering the social context

McCarthy and McCarthy 2005 distinguish four types of learners:

  • imaginative

  • analytical

  • common sense

  • experimental

Gardner 1993 identifies seven:

  • linguistic

  • logical-mathematical

  • musical

  • bodily-kinesthetic

  • spatial

  • interpersonal

  • intrapersonal

Veron and Levasseur 1983 determined visiting styles based on observations of animals (Zimmermann and Lorenz, 2008:404):

  • ants (following the curator’s path)

  • fish (holistic point of view)

  • butterfly (interest in all exhibits without following the curator’s path)

  • grasshopper (interest only in specific exhibits)

leading to the Macke Laboratory outputs of:

  • sauntering: the visitor is slowly walking around with an excursive gaze.

  • goal-drive: the visitor displays a direct movement with the gaze directed towards a specific artwork.

  • standing, focussed: the visitor is standing with the gaze directed towards a specific artwork

  • standing, unfocused: the visitor is standing or sitting with an excursive gaze

(Zimmermann and Lorenz, 2008:409):

  • fact-orientatedputting a high eight on spoken text
  • emotionalprioritizing music pieces and sound effects
  • overview – focusing mainly in short sound entities

REFERENCES

Arnone, M, Small, R, Chauncey, S, & McKenna, H 2011, ‘Curiosity, interest and engagement in technology-pervasive learning environments: a new research agenda’, Educational Technology Research & Development, 59, 2, pp. 181-198, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

Boehner, K, Gay, G, & Larkin, C 2005, ‘Drawing evaluation into design for mobile computing: a case study of the Renwick Gallery’s Hand Held Education Project’, International Journal On Digital Libraries, 5, 3, pp. 219-230, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

Bohnert, F, Zukerman, I, Berkovsky, S, Baldwin, T, & Sonenberg, L 2008, ‘Using interest and transition models to predict visitor locations in museums’, AI Communications, 21, 2/3, pp. 195-202, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

Brugnoli, M, Morabito, F, Bo, G, & Murelli, E 2006, ”Augmented itineraries’: Mobile services differentiating what museum has to offer’, Psychology Journal, 4, 3, pp. 311-335, PsycINFO, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

Cocciolo, A, & Rabina, D 2013, ‘Does place affect user engagement and understanding?Mobile learner perceptions on the streets of New York’, Journal Of Documentation, 69, 1, pp. 98-120, Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

Edwards, C 2013, ‘BETTER THAN REALITY?’, Engineering & Technology (17509637), 8, 4, pp. 28-31, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

Forsyth E. AR U FEELING APPY? AUGMENTED REALITY, APPS AND MOBILE ACCESS TO LOCAL STUDIES INFORMATION. Aplis [serial online]. September 2011;24(3):125-132. Available from: Academic Search Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed November 5, 2013.

Gaved, M, Collins, T, Mulholland, P, Kerawalla, L, Jones, A, Scanlon, E, Littleton, K, Blake, C, Petrou, M, Clough, G, & Twiner, A 2010, ‘Using netbooks to support mobile learners’ investigations across activities and places’, Open Learning, 25, 3, pp. 187-200, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

Jarrier, E, & Bourgeon-Renault, D 2012, ‘Impact of Mediation Devices on the Museum Visit Experience and on Visitors’ Behavioural Intentions’, International Journal Of Arts Management, 15, 1, pp. 18-29, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

Marchetti, E, & Valente, A 2012, ‘Diachronic Perspective and Interaction: New Directions for Innovation in Historical Museums’, International Journal Of Technology, Knowledge & Society, 8, 6, pp. 131-143, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

Mengmeng, L, Hiroaki, O, Bin, H, Noriko, U, & Kousuke, M 2013, ‘Context-aware and Personalization Method in Ubiquitous Learning Log System’, Journal Of Educational Technology & Society, 16, 3, pp. 362-373, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

McAndrew, P, Taylor, J, & Clow, D 2010, ‘Facing the challenge in evaluating technology use in mobile environments’, Open Learning, 25, 3, pp. 233-249, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

Semper, R, & Spasojevic, M 2002, ‘The Electronic Guidebook: Using Portable Devices and a Wireless Web-Based Network to Extend the Museum Experience’, ERIC, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

STOICA, A, & AVOURIS, N 2010, ‘AN ARCHITECTURE TO SUPPORT PERSONALIZED INTERACTION ACROSS MULTIPLE DIGITALLY AUGMENTED SPACES’, International Journal On Artificial Intelligence Tools, 19, 2, pp. 137-158, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

Zaharias P, Michael D, Chrysanthou Y. Learning through Multi-touch Interfaces in Museum Exhibits: An Empirical Investigation. Journal Of Educational Technology & Society [serial online]. July 2013;16(3):374-384. Available from: Academic Search Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed November 5, 2013.

Zimmermann, A, & Lorenz, A 2008, ‘LISTEN: a user-adaptive audio-augmented museum guide’, User Modeling & User-Adapted Interaction, 18, 5, pp. 389-416, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

LINKS:

Recommended: MIT’s sixth sense device. Do you know about it? Here’s a link to it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ig2RSID-kn8&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Acoustics DE

Advanced real-time tracking

Leveraging mobile technologies and Web 2.0 tools to engage those with an interest in the centenary of the First World War in the stories of the people of the era using strategically placed Quick Response codes.

Jonathan Vernon at the Design Museum. J F Vernon (2011)

Access to the conference sessions is limited to H818 participants, MA ODE alumni, and IET staff.

If you fall into one of these categories and would like to register for the conference, please complete this short Registration Form.

Fig. 1. Lewes War Memorial, East Sussex, England     J F Vernon (2011)

The problem with war memorials is that those named on them risk becoming forgotten words on a list.

By using the Web we can find out who these people named on the war memorials were and where they lived; we can try to put a face to the name and a story to the name  … and then we can share what we find.

There are more than 54,000 war memorials in Great Britain, most of these put up after the First World War. There is barely a community without one. Significant interest already exists, especially as we approach the centenary of the First World War making this initiative a potentially easy one to add to what is already taking place.

Fig. 2. British Legion Poppy featuring a Quick Response Code

In his 2011 book ‘The Digital Scholar’ Martin Weller  shares the thoughts of Brian Lamb to describe those technologies that ‘lend themselves to … the networked and open approach’ as ‘fast, cheap and out of control’.

It was with this in mind, taking an interest in the centenary of the First World War and obsession with war memorials that I started to think about using Quick Response codes as a personalised entry point to the Web that anyone could generate in order to share a story about someone who served in the conflict, and to do so both online and on the street.

Quick Response codes are fast, they are free and their potential in learning has yet to be realised.

Worn in this way, featured in the center of your commemoration Poppy, you can share directly with others the person whose life you wish to remember, as well as directing people to the content online and inviting them to ‘adopt’ a name from a war memorial themselves. Though exploiting the Web, this is designed as a ‘blended’ experience that uses face-to-face, community and classroom experiences, as well as taking people outside to monuments, buildings, streets and battlefields.

                                                                                  Esponsorvik (2014 )

Fig. 3. Toyota Quick Response Code and Using a TV remote control Espensorvik. Flickr

‘QR codes’ are a product of the car manufacturing industry. Faced with increasingly complex components, Denso, a supplier to Toyota, came up with what is a 2 dimensional bar code in the 1990s (Denso, 2010). Made free of patent, and using free software anyone can now generate their own unique QR code. You can even print them out on standardised sticky label stationery.

Fig. 4. Google Search ‘Quick Response Codes Education Images’ (2014)

There are a myriad of uses for QR codes, from embedding information that is read and stored by the device to a quick link to rich content online. Barrett, 2012). The interest here is to use QR codes to link to learning resources, in mobile, or ‘m-learning’ contexts in particular and for users to both read and write such context.

I liken QR codes to using your phone as a remote control to click to a TV channel (Fig 3) . You point a smartphone, or tablet at the QR code to read it and go instantly, pretty much, to a web page.

Their use in education in the last decade has been limited. ‘Refereed (sic) papers are few’ (Gradel & Edson, 2012), but between these and other published reports, suggestions can be made regarding their strengths or weaknesses.

If QR codes are to be used successfully then champions need to be identified to take up the cause in schools, colleges and local associations. Whilst QR codes use the power of the Web to connect people to rich content, that they may create themselves, a good deal of thoughtful planning will be necessary ‘in the classroom’, not just explaining how to make use of QR codes, but also working them in, where appropriate to current learning schedules where QR codes used in this way will meet clear learning objectives. Support online could be provided in a short eLearning module.

What has been shown repeatedly, in museums and ‘out in the field’, is that simply ‘put out there’ the QR codes are ignored (Gradel & Edson, 2012). An innovation such as this requires considerable promotion and support.  This makes the idea of wearing your own QR code on a Commemoration Poppy all the more appealing, as each person becomes an ambassador on the ground, for that nugget of information, especially if they are responsible for creating and hosting that content.

The opportunity exists, therefore, mentored and guided by educators, with support online, for schools, colleges and associations to engage people in bringing the stories of those named on our war memorials alive. In this way a deeper and more meaningful connection is made with the past and our relationship to it.

Copyright © 2010, The New York Times Company. Photography by Jim Wilson

Fig. 5. Handheld curator:  IPod Touches and visitors at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. (The New York Times)

According to the 2009 Horizon report (Horizon, 2009) the following would be of growing significance in teaching: mobile devices, clouding computing and the personal web. As an innovative approach, QR codes exploit all three of these developments.

Use of QR codes in learning however has had mixed results. Simply putting a QR code in front of a museum artifact, as they’ve done at the Museum of London and did at the Design Museum does not work (Vernon, 2013)  – there is plenty already, there is little to attract or promote their use, not everyone has a smartphone or tablet of course and the technology is often not robust – ‘out of use’ signs are familiar. Outdoors QR codes added to signs in the South Downs National Park, for example, barely received a view a day during a three month trial and in some instances there was no signal at all (Kerry-Bedel 2011; South Downs, 2012).

Where QR codes have been successful is in targeted learning experiences in schools (Tucker, 2011; Gradel & Edson, 2012), where the affordances of the QR code have been exploited to form part of an engaging, constructive and collective learning experience. To be effective this initiative with war memorials requires galvanising people to take part in a joint exercise – easier with a class in school or college, less easy with the general public unless it is through a national, regional or local community association or interest group.

Examples where QR codes work include where participants are ‘equipped’, and where they can take an active role, such as in ‘on the spot’ surveys or quizzes, where they are prompted into cooperative learning and where timely ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ are given. (Awano, 2007: Information Standards Committee 2008; So 2008; Robinson, 2010; Hicks & Sinkinson, 2011; Ryerson Library & Archives, 2012.)

K Lepi (2012)Copyright 2013 © Edudemic All rights reserved

Fig 6 . A Simple Guide to Four Complex  Learning Theories. Lepi (2012)

The theory behind the idea of using QR codes in a mobile and open way, is that in the digital age ‘connectivism’ is the ‘modus operandi’. In this diagram (Fig. 5)  from Edudemic (Edudemic 2012) traditional and digital theories are concerned. All are relevant, each has its place, with the digital environment offering new and additional approaches to learning.

Whilst traditional learning methods have their role in schools, lecture halls and with mature students too, the complete learning package requires a level and quality of interaction and connectedness that can only be achieved on the Web and be effective where the body of learners is large and their approach is open and shared so that knowledge acquisition comes through the challenges and rewards of such intercourse.

Connections won’t occur however unless they are nurtured. By way of example, wishing to support and promote the combat memoirs of my late grandfather John Arthur Wilson MM (Vernon, 2012) a number of organisations will be approached up and down the UK in relation to his experiences in the Durham Light Infantry, Machine Gun Corps and Royal Air Force. The Web will both help identify, forge and maintain and develop first and subsequent connections in what would hopefully be, to be effective, a two way, shared, open and reciprocal relationship. The beauty of having content  already online is that others can quickly view it and images, text and sound files, even video, adjusted to suit different audiences, or uses – and used freely where appropriate copyright permissions are given.

JFVernon 2010 from statistics from Jakob Nielsen (1999)

Fig 7 . Creators, commentators and readers – how use of the Web stacks up. Vernon (2010) after Nielsen (1999)

This degree of connectedness does not come naturally. Just as there can be no expectation that people will use a QR code because it is there – they won’t. With an innovative approach such as this promotion is crucial. Significant time, thought and effort need to be put into letting people know what is taking place and supporting their participation.

Only a fraction of a population are naturally inclined to generate content.

Jakob Nielsen (1999) would suggest that as few as 1% create content (Fig. 6). If content is therefore to be created by participants then very large numbers need to be made aware of the initiative. Online, openness helps when it is massive. Participation is improved where it is supported and moderated. Creators, commentators and readers each have a role to play.

The balance needs to be found between the qualities of a tool that is fast and cheap and where out of control means that something isn’t used in a way to benefit a formal learning requirement. On the one hand those who want to generate content can be encouraged to do so, while in a formal setting the intention would that everyone generates content of some form in order to receive feedback and assessment.

J F Vernon (2011) 

Fig 8. The Newcastle War Memorial by Sir William Goscombe John RA

The potential weakness of using QR codes are the requirement for participants to have a suitable device, say a smartphone or tablet and the possible communication fees when connecting away from a free wi-fi source – which is likely to be the case at a war memorial (Gradel & Edson, 2012).

Reading from and using a smartphone or tablet may also present accessibility issues, from the need for dexterity and reading content that isn’t offered in alternative forms, such as text sizes and background or audio alternatives.

There are many examples where local councils feel a war memorial or building is so important that they have invested in information placards on site (Fig. 7). As commemoration of those who served and died in the First World War is of local and national interest funding is potentially available to help support initiatives such as these through the Heritage Lottery Fund, while organisations such as the Western Front Association have funding for branch activities too.

If permission is required for personalisation of a British Legion poppy using a QR code, then alternatives may be required, from working with other suitable groups such as the Imperial War Museum or Western Front Association to putting the QR code on a badge instead.

Where used in the field it is likely that a teacher would put out sets of QR coded markers in advance and collect them afterwards. Where a photograph in a town featuring before and after views permission may also be required if any kind of QR coded plaque or poster is to be put up. Other inventive ways to use a QR code would be to attach them to an obstacle course like trench experience where each code triggers elements of a task, sound effects or narrative in keeping with the setting.  By way of example, at the ‘In Flanders Museum’ in Ypres a number of exhibits require the visitor to duck, crawl or crane their neck before supporting audio or lighting is triggered by a Near Field code in a bracelet.

  J F Vernon (1989-2014)

Fig. 9. The memoir of a Machine Gunner and RFC Fighter Pilot. ‘That’s Nothing Compared to Passchendaele’

In his 2011 book ‘The Digital Scholar’ Martin Weller shares the ideas of Robert Capps (2009) who coined the term ‘the good enough revolution’ – in relation to creating and sharing content in an open culture. This precludes being prescriptive or from expecting perfection.

Whilst output on the First World War from the BBC, the Imperial War Museum or the Open University should understandably attain a certain professional standard, the kind of creation required of those research names on war memorials should take inspiration from that is more than just ‘good enough, from ‘pinning’ names from a war memorial to a home address, to ‘pinning’ submitted World War One photographs to Google maps over former battlefields, as well as numerous inventive YouTube videos and memoirs presented as blogs.

REFERENCE

Awano, Y (2007). Brief pictorial description of new mobile technologies used in cultural institutions in Japan. The Journal of Museum Education, 32(1), 17-25

Barrett, T (2012). 50 Interesting ways to use QR codes to support learning. (Last accessed 6th Feb 2014  https://docs.google.com/present/edit?id=0AclS3lrlFkCIZGhuMnZjdjVfNzY1aHNkdzV4Y3I&hl=en_GB&authkey=COX05IsF

Denso (2010a). QR Code Standardization. (Retrieved 6th Feb 2014, from http://www.denso-wave.com/qrcode/qrstandard-e.html )

Edudemic. Traditional Learning Theories. (Accessed 19th April 2013) http://edudemic.com/2012/12/a-simple-guide-to-4-complex-learning-theories/

Gradel, K., & Edson, A. J. (2012). Higher ed QR code resource guide.

Hicks, A., & Sinkinson, C. (2011). Situated questions and answers: Responding to library users with QR codes. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 51(1), 60–69.

Horizon Report 2009 (2009) Educause (Accessed 14th Feb 2014 http://www.educause.edu/library/resources/2009-horizon-report )

Information Standards Committee (2008) Section 3: QR code, Synthesis Journal. (From http://www.itsc.org.sg/pdf/synthesis08/Three_QR_Code.pdf )

Kerry-Bedel, A (2011) Smartphone technology – the future of heritage interpretation: Its in conservation (Accessed 14th February 2014 http://www.kbstconsulting.co.uk/QR/images/ITIC.pdf )

Lepi, K (2012) A Simple Guide To 4 Complex Learning Theories. Edudemic eMagazine 24th December 2012. (Accessed 14th February 2014. http://www.edudemic.com/a-simple-guide-to-4-complex-learning-theories/ )

New York Times. The Best Tour Guide May Be in Your Purse. Article by Keith Schneider. 18 March 2010. Copyright © 2010, The New York Times Company http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/18/arts/artsspecial/18SMART.html

Nielsen, J (1999) Web Usability

Robinson, K. (2010). Mobile phones and libraries: Experimenting with the technology. ALISS Quarterly, 5(3), 21–22

Ryerson University Library & Archives (2012). QR codes. Retrieved 6th Feb 2014, from http://www.ryerson.ca/library/qr/.

So, S. (2008). A Study on the Acceptance of Mobile Phones for Teaching and Learning with a group of Pre-service teachers in Hong Kong. Journal of Educational Technology Development and Exchange, 1(1), 81-92.

South Downs (2012)  Use of QR Codes (Accessed 14 Feb 2014 http://southdownsforum.ning.com/forum/topics/signposting-and-qr-codes )

Tucker, A. (2011). What are those checkerboard things? How QR codes can enrich student projects. Tech Directions, 71(4), 14-16.

Vernon J.F. (2012) (Blog Post)  (Accessed 14th February 2014 http://machineguncorps.com/jack-wilson-mm/ )

Vernon, J.F. (2013) (Blog Post) Mobile learning at the Museum of London: QR codes and NFCs (Accessed 14th February 2014) http://mymindbursts.com/2013/11/10/molqr1/

Weller, M (2011) The Digital Scholar: How Technology is Transforming Scholarly Practice. 5% Loc 239 of 4873

 

The use and better use of QR codes in learning

Fig.1. Here a ‘Near Field Code’ offers the visitor further information as a rich ‘nugget’ delivered to their smart phone – though not to iPhones. My perfect guide would have been my mother at my side.

An avid visitor to museums, galleries, historic houses and battlefields I have become intrigued by the kinds of guidance offered and the way this has changed with the greater use of IT and in some instances the use of Quick Response or Near Field codes. All of them appear to try to recreate the perfect visitor support – the sympathetic, well informed guide at your shoulder explaining what’s what and tailoring their response to your interests and level of interest. I had this, and my children, nephews and nieces got it too from my late mother on visits to art galleries. An artist who had studied art history too, she had a way of picking out nuggets of information and insight about an artist and their trade.

Fig. 2. Some galleries and museums now offer an audio guide that is at least triggered by your proximity to an exhibit.

Though you are of course still beholden to the words and tone of the expert, even if their words are spoken by a broadcaster. From time to time the quality of the content stands out – in my experience the audio-guide for visitors to Alcatraz in the Bay of San Francisco stands out because it had to my ears the hallmarks of a BBC radio docu-drama – expertly written and crafted with the right mix of interview clips from former inmates, and prison guards.

As learning experience this is still one way – however memorable I am neither constructing my own narrative nor sharing much with others, until of course you take off your headphones and share your feelings and thoughts with other family members.

A QR code offers more than just a switch that triggers a nugget of reading, viewing or listening at a specific spot – it offers the chance to take people to content that you provide and to make connections that lead to conversations and discussion. It is these aspects of the QR code that are of interest to me, students as ‘produsers’ and participants, having responsibility for, even pride in, content that they research, put online, tag and then promote with a QR code and then return to as the curator and moderator of their content, sharing and expanding their views through ‘connected learning’ practice.

Fig. 3. Using Quick Response codes to bring those who served in the First World War to life

In relation to the First World War, to achieve this requires more than simply sticking QR codes to poppies, and leaving poppies at memorials, in the railings outside historic buildings, or in the ground on battlefields – it requires three kinds of champion: institutional support, educator support and these ‘produsers’ – a term coined by the Australian academic John Bruns when writing about the value of blogging.

The institution, by way of example, in the UK, might be the British Legion, Imperial War Museum, Western Front Association or National Trust – as well as smaller, regional and local associations. The ‘educator’ to use its broadest sense is the classroom teacher or university lecturer who once introduced to QR codes sees how their use can be exploited within their own learning programmes.

 

Fig.4. My visualization and conception of those who are most active at generating content. After Jakob Nielsen (1999)

While the ‘produser’ is that rare 1% in an online population, like those who generate content for wikipedia, keep a blog or post video content to YouTube, who can be encouraged, within the context of the First World War to use QR codes in imaginative and innovative ways, probably drawing viewers to content or adapted content, that they have already created and in doing so indicating to others how straightforward it can be to upload a photograph and some text, or if they are moved to do so, to write a poem, compose a song, paint a picture, make a sculpture, complete some research or tell a story – and then to share it, especially at times and in places that are most appropriate.

REFERENCE

Bruns, A. (2005) ‘Anyone can edit’: understanding the produser. Retrieved from http;//snurb.info/index. php?q=node/s86

Nielsen, J (1999) Web Usability

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