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Why skiing is my metphor for life and learning

Fig.1.   Mont Turia from the summit of Aiguille Rouge, Les Arcs at 3250m

On the last day, on the last run of my first week’s skiing I broke my leg rather badly. I was 13. I was in hospital for a week. In a wheelchair for two months and had the leg re-broken as it wasn’t setting properly. I spent six months at home. Idiot. But most 13 year old boys are.

I missed the next season.

For the following 20 years skiing mattered – a gap year working in the Alps (Val D’Isere in the Sofitel Hotel working 13 hours a day 7 days a week), a decade later researching a TV documentary and book  (Oxford Scientific Films, Skieasy Ski Guides), falling in love with a fellow skiing enthusiast (we’ve been married 20 years), a honeymoon on the slopes and ten years later, on the slopes with a 4 and 6 year old, then again when they were 10 and 12. 

I miss it.

(See above – the last week of the season, Tignes. The only people on the slopes are the ‘seasoniers’ who have worked since December. It is like being on the beach. A stream that flows above Val Claret melts and various ponds form. We ski it.)

Early in the afternoon I’d asked my girlfriend if she’d marry me. I was feeling cock-a-hoop.

We’ve been back twice in the last decade. There have been other priorities. I’ll be taking my 14 year old son out later this month or in April. Is that wise? At this age teenagers really are prone to take risks and can lack the physique.

Reasons to celebrate and look forwards

37 months to the day after starting the Masters in Open & Distance Education (MAODE) I got the final result, for H810: Accessibility in Open Learning – supporting students with disabilities, today. 84.

It has been so worth it and such a better, engaging, effective, experience than my undergraduate degree in a traditional university some decades ago. I feel as if I have earned it for a start. I have survived disasters rather than succumbed to them.

I am a reading, thinking, writing machine.

I feel like someone who has come to skiing late in life and has caught the bug. My mother started skinning in her mid 40s … and in her 50th year (unencumbered by her husband who was with wife three by then) sold the house and did a belated ‘gap year’ working a season in the Alps. The equivalent for me has to be the intellectual challenge of doctoral research.

More reading, thinking and writing – with research and teaching too I hope.

Onwards.

Tutor Marked Assignment One  (TMA01) for H809 (Practice-based research in educational technology) is due on Monday.

Why more?

‘Practice-based research in educational technology’, to use skiing as a metaphor, is like learning to ski ‘off-piste’. Apt, as the tracks I make are ones I have planned, rather than keeping to the groomed, signed and patrolled ‘safety’ of the regular runs.

And my reward?

Fig. 2. Mont Blanc – From the Ski Resort of La Plagne,  Above Montchavin. Les Arc on the right . The road to Val d’Isere clinging to the mountain in the middle distance Bourg St. Maurice in the bottom of the Valley

Skiing en famille.

We’ve not been out for five years so it should be a treat. It has to be on a shoestring, so short of hitching to Bulgaria can anyone recommend ways to keep the cost down?!!

 

Exploring students’ understanding of how blogs and blogging can support distance learning in Higher Education

Fig.1. Why Blog?

If anything has been written on blogging I want to read it. On 27th September 1999 I posted to my first blog – it was on blogging and new media. We’re now in the phase of transition that took the printed book after the Gutenberg Press some 400 years. The clunky blog of 1999 barely compares the variety and scope of what we still call a blog today.

This rightly questions when and where blogging should be an endeavour to use with students. 

Exploring students’ understanding of how blogs and blogging can support distance learning in Higher Education (2007) Kerawalla, Minocha, Conole, Kirkup, Schencks and Sclater.

Based on this research blogging is very clearly NOT of interest to the majority of students, NOR is it likely to be of value to them for collaborative learning. There may be value in blogging for your own sake – aggregating content in one place.

(Research on using blogging with students of Public Relations gives a far more favourable response … I would suspect that this would apply to courses on journalism and creative writing i.e. use the medium that is appropriate for those on specific courses).

This is a study of OU students.

A more promising, and appropriate study I am looking at concerns PR students who a) need to develop their writing skills b) need to understand what blogging is all about.

The greatest value I have got from this self-inflicted exercise is to deconstruct the research that was undertaken should I wish to undertake research of this ilk myself. Can I fault the research?

What do you think?

Problem Does blogging support student in their learning or not?
Are educators perceptions of the positive uses of blogging for learning borne out by the perceptions of and uses of blogging by students?
Questions QQ Designed to ascertain their level of experience of blogs and to gather their opinions about how blogs (and other tools) could support their learning.

The research questions we sought to answer were as follows:

1) What degree of blogging experience do students have?
2) Do students want to have blogging as part of their course?
3) In what ways do students think blogging is (not) a useful learning tool?
4) Is there a disparity between what course designers think blogging is useful for, or would like blogging to be used for, and students’ opinions of usefulness?

Setting Online students at the OU
Survey of 795 student and course designers
Authors ‘Enthusiastic’ OU IETT Academics
Previous research O’Reilly 2005, Sade 2007, Weller 2007 – literature search, previous research …
Concepts/theories
Methods Qualitative – explorative/iterative rather than set

All questions required students to select their response by clicking on a radio button, (e.g. ‘yes’ or ‘no’, or Likert scales such as ‘not at all’, ‘slightly’, ‘in-between/no opinion’, fairly’, or ‘very much’). (Kerawalla et al. p. 6. 2007) + an open question for expanded thoughts.

Interviews with course designers – Interview questions were designed to address the following areas: the rationale for introducing blogs, whether blog content would be assessed, whether blogging was compulsory, uptake levels and whether there were any plans to evaluate the success of blogging activities.

– extract, collate and compare.

Quantitative

Analysis – The survey generated both quantitative and qualitative data.

SPSS Analysis
Manual coding of responses
Coding of responses

Findings
  • Affordances of blogs not taken up, support meaning making, (Fiedler, 2003)
  • reduce sense of isolation (Dickey 2004).
  • knowledge communities (eg Oravec 2003).

i.e. Not everything they’re cracked up to be.

Krause (2004) reports haphazard contributions to blogs by his students, minimal communication between them, and found that posts demonstrated poor quality reflection upon the course materials.

Williams and Jacobs (2004) introduced blogs to MBA students and although he reports overall success, he encountered problems with poor compliance as, for example 33% of the students thought they had nothing valuable to say in their blog.

Homik and Melis (2006) report only minimal compliance to meet assessment requirements and that students stopped blogging at the end of their course. Other issues include:

  • students plagiarizing from each others’ blogs
  • the need for students to have developed skills in choosing which hyperlinks to include in their blog (e.g. Oravec, 2003)
  • an ability to manage the tension between publishing private thoughts in a public space (Mortensen and Walker, 2002).

It appears that the ideals of educators can be difficult to implement in practice. (Kerawalla et al. p. 5. 2007)

Paradigms A cultural psychological approach to our research that proposes that learning is a social activity that is situated and mediated by tools that fundamentally shape the nature of that activity (e.g. Cole, 1996, Wertsch, 1991 and Vygotsky, 1979).
Limitations Expectations about sharing, enthusiasm for the genre …definition of blog (see e-portfolio and wiki), journalism …. hard to define (Boyd, 2006).

They mean different things to different people. Uses to collate resources (portfolio) (Huann, John and Yuen, 2005) , share materials and opinions .. (Williams and Jacobs, 2004).

Implications Guidelines, informs design
  • 53.3% of students had read a blog
  • only 8% of students had their own blog
  • 17.3% had commented on other people’s blogs
  • 23% of students thought that the commenting feature on blogs is ‘slightly’ or ‘not at all’ useful,
  • 42% had ‘no opinion’
  • 35% thought that commenting is ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ useful.
  • only 18% said that they thought blogs would be ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ useful.
  • of those who blog only 205 of these thought blogs would be ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ useful.

Students were asked ‘how much would you like to use a blog provided by the OU as part of your studies?’

35%  ‘not at all’
13% said ‘slightly’
34% had ‘no opinion’,
12% said ‘fairly’
6% responded ‘very much’

Students were asked ‘how much would you like to use a blog provided by the OU for personal use?’.

52.6% said ‘not at all’
8.7% said ‘slightly’
28.3% had ‘no opinion’
8% said ‘fairly’
2.7% responded ‘very much’.

Chi-square analyses

Examination of the observed and expected frequencies for this data suggests that in both cases, there is a relationship between not seeing a role for blogs and not wanting greater use of conferencing.
Supporting findings that when given a choice between classroom based learning or e-learning those who have a choice are equally satisfied by what they get.

All of the positive responses refer to the students’ own (potential) study blog. (Kerawalla et al. p. 7 2007) Others use their blog as a repository. Few saw the benefits of linking or using a blog to for reflection and developing ideas.

Responses to the question ‘would you like a blog provided by the OU to support your studies?’ reveal that there is a profound lack of enthusiasm (from 82% of the sample) for blogging as part of courses.

Later this year, we plan to explore PhD blogs. This variety and combination of methods will enable us to gather different perspectives and to triangulate our findings. (Kerawalla et al. p. 7 2007)

REFERENCE

Cole, M. (1996) Cultural Psychology. Camb. Mass: The Belnap Press of Harvard University Press.

Kerawalla, Lucinda; Minocha, Shailey; Conole, Grainne; Kirkup, Gill; Schencks, Mat and Sclater, Niall (2007). Exploring students’ understanding of how blogs and blogging can support distance learning in Higher Education. In: ALT-C 2007: Beyond Control: Association of Learning Technologies Conference, 4-6 September 2007, Nottingham, UK.

Vygotsky, (1979) Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. M. Cole M, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner and E. Souberman (eds and trans). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wertsch, J (1991) A sociocultural approach to socially shared cognition. In L.Resnick, J. Levine and S. Teasley (eds), Perspectives on Socially Shared Cognition, Washington: American Psychological Association.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I digress:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t get distracted:

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

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

How do you split your time online? Visual expression of my ‘personal learning environment’ PLE

Fig. 1. The latest expression of how I learn on line. February 2013

This has gone through various forms and ought to included learning across all platforms – I get books from Amazon where the eBook doesn’t exist, I use sheets of A1 paper on a drawing board to sketch out ideas and plans, I use the iPad as a digital camera and use a digital SLR too.

Fig. 2. How it was

The difference? Even more reading and writing.

Fig. 3. Earlier still. A year ago?

A more realistic expression of my learning environment or context i.e. taking on board multiple influences

Fig. 4. A difference expression of the same thing – centred on e-learning

Digital Natives – claptrap, scaremongering and myth

Marc Prensky

Marc Prensky (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Use of computers in any form, from desktops to laptops, and now with smartphones and tablets, has never been generational. We’d might as well suggest that there were once bicycle riding natives or TV remote control natives. The term was coined by Marc Prensky (2001) – there was never any substance to it. Academics and journalists ought to be more wary when these ideas that appear to express an apparent reality and suggest revolution and disruption are given so much credence. Research now shows that there is no substance at all to the idea.

Despite recent empirical evidence undermining claims about profound age-related differences in technology use and practices and moves by the original authors to distance themselves from their original claims (e.g. Prensky 2009), the idea put forward, of a fundamental gap between the technologically skilled and unskilled, persists. (Bennet and Maton, 2010:322)

Prensky (2009) is no less re-assuring than in his previous books and article, his style light journalism, opinion and replete with soundbites – in this article ‘digital wisdom’ and ‘ future wisdom seekers’ are his catch phrase somehow permitted by a quote from Einstein. He also spouts pseudo-science about ‘those who interact with technology frequently will be restructured by that interaction’ – ‘The brains of wisdom seekers of the future will be fundamentally different, in organization and in structure, than our brains are today’. He also continues to tout the idea of the ‘digital immigrant’ referring to Barack Obama and Rupert Murdoch. (Perhaps he could add Philip Green and Martin Sorrell)

The research from Bennett says this about Prensky’s thesis:

– Little critical scrutiny
– Under theorised
– Lack of sound empirical basis

It would be worrying were educators to act on the kind of radical changes in curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and professional in education that Prensky feels is required.

‘Arguments are often couched in dramatic language, proclaim a profound change in the world, and pronounce stark generational differences’ (Bennett, 2008:03).

Claims are put forward with limited empirical evidence (Tapscott, 1998) or supported by anecdotes and appeals to common-sense beliefs. (Prensky, 2001. Prensky cites Captain James T Kirk from Star Trek … as if a fictional character, or the show (rather than its author) should be the one to cite at all.

‘The researchers found that only a minority of the students (around 21%) were engaged in creating their own content and multimedia for the Web, and that a significant proportion of students had lower level skills than might be expected of digital natives.’ (Bennett 2008:02)

Kennedy et al’s research (2009) in Australia shows that emerging technologies are NOT the lifeblood of a generation, far from it. Research amongst students in three Australian universities showed that only :

21% blog
24% used social networking
21.5% used podcasts

Hardly the universal use of technology by this generation that Prensky and his cronies suggest is the position.

‘There is no evidence that multi-tasking is a new phenomenon exclusive to digital natives’, (Bennett, 2008:02)

Best of all it turns out that all of us who use these tools frequently take on what Prensky might think of as uniquely teenage or generational traits – impatient for a start with software or bandwidth, online 20/7 if not 24/7 … but at least capable of seeing the often Wikipedia is not an adequate or accurate source (they’ve let me edit enough stuff) or that Google is does not offer the definitive answer ever, let alone on the first sweep.

Just because something resonates with our personal observations doesn’t make it so. Frankly, Prensky et al should be stand-up comics – you have to laugh, at their nonsense and how gullible we are to want to believe them.

‘Such claims with appeals to sense and recognisable anecdotes are used to declare an emergency situation, and call for urgent and fundamental change.’ (Bennett, 2008:04)

Research has shown that the concept of the ‘digital native’ is worse than a myth – it was and remains untrue. We should think instead of how innovations are adopted, using Roger’s diffusion of innovation of and in this case an expensive one – far from being generational computers were taken up right across age groups in equal measure. It is also very wrong to assume, as the article says, that all children have the ‘knowledge’ – they do not.

‘An evaluation of students’ perceptions and engagement with e-learning components in a campus based university’. (Ituma 2011)

Another false assumption recently researched relating to the use of computers by disabled students – it turns out that some are highly digitally literate, embracing the technology and finding their own ways to overcome some of the barriers we assume to be in their way because of the benefits that are afforded them – digitised text can be read and manipulated in many ways to suit those with sight, cognitive or mobility impairments.

‘Generalisations about the ways in which digital natives learn also fail to recognise cognitive differences in young people of different ages and variation within age groups.’ (Bennett, 2008:02)

And variations within those with disabilities – who of course are not a homogeneous group either.

As educators we ought to enquire first of every child or student’s exposure to and use of these devices, like swimming, playing the piano or speaking a foreign language we may be surprised at the outcome.

‘Our research suggests that we should be cautious about distinguishing a specific generation because although there are age differences there are additional factors differentiating students, specifically gender and disciplinary differences. We find significant age related differences but we are reluctant to conclude that there is a clear disconnection between a Net generation composed of Digital Natives and older students.’ (Jones and Ramanau, 2010)

Studies of school-aged children in particular have highlighted differences in the ways home access to technology is determined according to the location of the computer, rules about access and the value placed on technology as an educational or recreational device (Downes 1998; Kerawalla & Crook 2002).

What these studies suggest is that young people grow up with different histories of access to technology and therefore different opportunities. This leads to the conclusion that measures of access tell only part of the story, and that it may be more important to understand the nature of the technology-based activities in which young people engage. Bennet and Maton (2010:323)

Content creation activities (as measured by items such as creating text, graphics, audio or video) are consistently lower than might be anticipated given many claims about what young people are doing with technology. In fact, with the exception of social networking, most activities associated with Web 2.0 are engaged in by a minority of respondents on key large-scale surveys (e.g. Salaway & Caruso 2007; Kennedy et al. 2009; Jones et al. 2010. Bennet and Maton (2010:324)

Green and Hannon (2007) suggested different user types with their own particular expertise: ‘digital pioneers’, ‘creative producers’, ‘everyday communicators’ and ‘information gatherers’.

It is clear from this recent research that there is significant variation in the ways in which young people use technology, suggesting that rather than being a homogenous generation, there is a diversity of interests, motivations and needs. So while some young people might be regarded as ‘digital natives’, these are by no means characteristics shared by all young people simply because of their exposure to digital technologies. Bennet and Maton (2010:325)

The lack of evidence for the existence of an entire generation of digital natives seriously undermines arguments made for radical change to education because of a proclaimed disjuncture between the needs of young people and their educational institutions. This is not to say that education should not change at all, but merely, that the basis of the argument, as it is currently made, is fundamentally flawed. Bennet and Maton (2010:325)

Not only do they fail to acknowledge the ways in which formal education does change, but they devalue it to such an extent that it is difficult to comprehend what it could offer. It is to discount wholly the notion that formal education can and does provide an important complement to informal learning (Facer & Furlong 2001; Jenkins 2004).

In short, a defining characteristic of knowledge gained in a formal educational context is that it is pedagogized knowledge. That is, it is knowledge that has been selected, re-arranged into a particular sequence within a curriculum, and recontextualized within specific contexts of teaching and learning (Singh 2002 in Bennet and Maton 2010:327)

Elsewhere we have argued that much of the discussion about digital natives has taken the form of an ‘academic moral panic’, in which dramatic language proclaiming profound change and a series of strongly bounded divides close down genuine debate (Bennett et al. 2008).

They are the same as claims made, for example, in the late 1950s and early 1960s about a generation of students immersed in new forms of commercial culture, such as television and popular music. (Bennet and Maton 2010:328)

Erasing the past in this way renders social and intellectual change an ‘article of faith’ rather than an ‘object of inquiry’ (Moore & Maton 2001). The past becomes a ‘foreign country’ and the young and old are considered to inhabit different worlds. Given the research evidence to the contrary and the illogic of such a position, it is futile to continue with these kinds of arguments. (Bennet and Maton 2010:328)

Another feature of the debate is what can be termed a ‘certainty–complacency spiral’ that enables the uncritical reproduction of the terms ‘digital native’ or ‘Net Generation’ in ways that give both of them a credence they do not deserve and amplifies their significance. The more certain authors are that digital natives exist, the less likely they seem to be to question claims made about them by other authors. For example, publications comprising unevidenced claims have often been routinely cited as if they contained researched evidence. This complacent, uncritical acceptance of the veracity of such claims in turn encourages further certainty, as the number of publications adopting the term grows. (Bennet and Maton 2010:328)

REFERENCE

Bennett, S., Maton, Karl., Kervin, L. (2008) The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence. British Journal of Educational Technology Volume 39, Issue 5,Article first published online: 5 FEB 2008 (viewed 13 Dec 2012).

Downes T. (1998) Using the computer at home. In IT for Learning Enhancement (ed. M. Monteith), pp. 61–78. Intellect Books, Oxford.

Facer K. & Furlong R. (2001) Beyond the myth of the ‘cyberkid’: young people at the margins of the information revolution. Journal of Youth Studies 4, 451–469.

Jenkins H. (2004) The myths of growing up online. Technology Review. Available at: http://www.technologyreview. com/Biotech/13773 (last accessed 19 October 2009).

Jones, Chris (2012). The new shape of the student. In: Huang, Ronghuai; Kinshuk, and Spector, J. Michael eds.Reshaping Learning – The Frontiers of Learning Technologies in Global Context. New Frontiers of Educational Research. New York: Springer, (In press).

Jones C., Ramanaua R., Cross S. & Healing G. (2010) Net generation or Digital Natives: is there a distinct new generation entering university? Computers and Education 54, 722–732.

Kennedy G., Dalgarno B., Bennett S., Gray K., Waycott J., Judd T., Bishop A., Maton K., Krause K. & Chang R. (2009) Educating the Net Generation – A Handbook of Findings for Practice and Policy. Australian Learning and Teaching Council. Available at: http://www.altc.edu.au/ system/files/resources/CG6-25_Melbourne_Kennedy_ Handbook_July09.pdf (last accessed 19 October 2009).

Kerawalla L. & Crook C. (2002) Children’s computer use at home and at school: context and continuity. British Educational Research Journal 28, 751–771.

Ituma, A 2011, ‘An Evaluation of Students’ Perceptions and Engagement with E-Learning Components in a Campus Based University’,Active Learning In Higher Education, 12, 1, pp. 57-68, ERIC, EBSCOhost, viewed 13 December 2012.

Singh P. (2002) Pedagogising knowledge: Bernstein’s theory of the pedagogic device. British Journal of Sociology of Education 23, 571–582.

Trinder, K., Guiller, J., Margaryan, A., Littlejohn, A. & Nicol, D. 2008. Learning from digital natives: bridging formal and informal learning. The Higher Education Academy
<http://www.academy.gcal.ac.uk/ldn/LDNFinalReport.pdf&gt; [Accessed 20 August 2012]

Moore R. & Maton K. (2001) Founding the sociology of knowledge: Basil Bernstein, intellectual fields and the epistemic device. In Towards a Sociology of Pedagogy: The Contribution of Basil Bernstein to Research (eds A. Morais, I. Neves, B. Davies&H.Daniels), pp. 153–182. Peter Lang, NewYork.

Prensky M. (2001) Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon 9, 1–6.

Prensky, M 2009, ‘H. Sapiens Digital: From Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom’, Innovate: Journal Of Online Education, 5, 3, ERIC, EBSCOhost, (viewed 13 Dec 2012).

Rogers, E.M. (2003) Diffusion of Innovations (5th edn), New York, Simon and Schuster.

Salaway G. & Caruso J. (2007) The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Technology. EDUCAUSE, Boulder, CO.

Tapscott, D (1998) Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation McGraw-Hill Companies.

My personal learning environment (PLE)

 

Fig.1. Learning online with the Open University – 6 Dec 2012

This has changed somewhat over 2 1/2 years I have been working towards an MA in Open and Distance Education.

  • I rarely print off.
  • I do most work on an iPad.
  • I use Google Docs not Word.
  • My blog is an e-portfolio
  • EVERYTHING is online.

Webinars are a frequent external indulgence usually with the Learning Skills Group as are industry specific e-learning and creative forums on Linkedin.

Related articles

It is well known that the average quality of websites is poor, “lack of navigability” being the #1 cause of user dissatisfaction

Fig. 1. A model for professional development of e-learning (JISC, 2010)

It is well known that the average quality of websites is poor, “lack of navigability” being the #1 cause of user dissatisfaction [Fleming, 1998; Nielsen, 1999].

Should a link from a reference that gives dated commentary such as this be given in a contemporary piece of e-learning on accessibility?

My frustrations may be leading to enlightenment but when a subject such as e-learning is so fast moving it is laughable to find yourself being referred to commentary published over a decade ago, and so potentially first written down 13 years ago.

At times I wonder why the OU doesn’t have a model that can be repeatedly refreshed, at least with every presentation, rather than every decade when the stuff is replaced wholesale. They need a leaner machine – or at least the Institution of Educational Technology does.

I did H807 Innovations in e-learning in 2010 – it has now been replaced by H817 – at times H807 told me LESS about innovations in e-learning that I picked up myself working in the industry creating innovative online learning and development in 2000/2001 while the tutor struggled with the online tools.

Here we go again, not from the resource, but from someone cited in it :

In 1999, in anticipation of Special Educational Needs and Disability Rights in Education Bill (SENDA), funding was obtained to employ a researcher for 2 days per week over a 6 month period to produce a concise usable guide to the factors which must be taken into account in order to produce accessible online learning materials.

I don’t want to know or need to know – all of this should be filtered out.

There needs to be a new model for publishing academic papers – quicker and perishable, with a sell-by-date.

In fairness, in this instance, I am quoting from a reference of a 2006 publication that is a key resource for H810 Accessible Online Learning. But I have now found several specialists cited in Seale’s publication on accessibility who say very different things in 2007 and 2011 respectively compared to how they are referenced in papers these two wrote in 1996 and 2001.

For example, compare these two:

Vanderheiden, G. C., Chisholm, W. A., & Ewers, N. (1997, November 18). Making screen readers work more effectively on the web (1st)

Vanderheiden, G. C.(2007) Redefining Assistive Technology, Accessibility and Disability Based on Recent Technical Advances. Journal of Technology in Human Services Volume 25, Issue 1-2, 2007, pages 147- 158

The beauty of our WWW in 2012 is that a few clicks and a reference can be checked and the latest views of the author considered, yet the module’s design doesn’t instigate or expect this kind of necessary refreshing.

The other one to look at is:

Stephanidis et al. (2011) Twenty five years of training and education in ICT Design for All and Assistive Technology.

What’s the point of a portfolio? Whether online or at home in your desk?

Fig. 1. The two faces of e-portfolios. Barrett (2010).

Think of an e-portfolio in terms of:

  • Workspace
  • Showcase
  • Specific academic fields
  • A Learning journey

Evidence (content):

  • Writing
  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Research projects
  • Observations by mentors and peers
  • Reflective thinking

(Butler 2006, p. 2) My view is that these tasks, or affordances, are better and well managed by a blog. During 2010 while in my first year of the Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) not only were we encouraged to use the OU Student Blog platform, but we were also encourages to use the OU eportfolio MyStuff.

Fig. 2 Müllschlucker

I dutifully ‘dumped’ and labelled content, even sorted it in an effort to write assignment using this system. I would liken it to a Müllschlucker – a rubbish shoot in a tall appartment block (Isn’t the German for it such a great word?)  – it made grabbing and dumping stuff easy. What was far harder was to sift through this content and create meaning from it  a a later date. It didn’t have enough of me about it most of the time to trigger recollections. We got a warning that MyStuff would be killed off – I made a stab at sorting through what I’d put there, but like boxes of papers in a lock-up garage I was more relieved when it was over. I also tried a couple of external e-portfolio services: Peppblepad and Mahara for example. I tripped up quickly as the learning curve was too steep for me – and why duplicate what I was enjoying with WordPress?

I’m about to cook a lasagna, so why give me a pick-axe? Or, I want to make a toasted sandwich so why give me a MagiMix? All tools need to be carefully promoted, demonstrated then used in a sandpit with careful instruction and support. Basic scaffolding in other words.

“The overarching purpose of portfolios is to create a sense of personal ownership over one’s accomplishments, because ownership engenders feelings of pride, responsibility, and dedication.” (Paris and Ayres, 1994,p.10).

“The e-portfolio is the central _and common point for the student experience. It is a reflection of the student as a person undergoing continuous personal development, _not just a store of evidence.” (Rebbeck, 2008) Process (a series of activities) Product (the end result of the process) Blogging and keeping an e-portfolio are synonymous

A web-log, or blog, is an online journal that encourages communication of ideas, and individual entries are usually displayed in reverse-chronological order. Barrett  (2010, p6)

Blogs provide an ideal tool to construct learning journals, as discussed by Crichton and Kopp (2008) from the University of Calgary, ‘… that eJournals help to make ePortfolios more authentic and relevant to the students’ lives.’

Workspace or Working Portfolio. Washington Stage University.

  • Or (digital) shoebox.
  • Presentation Portfolios, showcase or ‘showtime.’

John Dewey (1933) discusses both retrospective (for analysis of data) and prospective modes of reflection (for planning). Beck and Bear (2009) studied reflection in the teaching cycle, comparing how pre-service teachers rated the development of their reflection skills in both formative and summative e-folios.

Fig. 3. JISC (2008) Effective Practice with E-portfolios. Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) on behalf of JISC. (Page 11)

Reflection is the “heart and soul” of a portfolio, and is essential to brain-based learning (Kolb, 1984; Zull, 2002). Once we have looked back over our body of work, then we have an opportunity to look forward, setting a direction for future learning through goals… reflection in the future tense. Barrett  (2010, p3)

Blogs are organized in reverse chronological order; most showcase portfolios are organized thematically, around a set of learning goals, outcomes or standards. Both levels of reflection and organization are important, and require different strategies for supporting different levels of reflection.

REFERENCE

Barrett, H. (2010). Balancing the Two Faces of ePortfolios. Educação, Formação & Tecnologias, 3(1), 6-14. [Online], Available online: http://eft.educom.pt (Accessed 29 SEPT 2010) http://electronicportfolios.org/balance/ (Accessed 4 NOV 2012) Updated version http://electronicportfolios.org/balance/Balancing2.htm (Accessed 4 NOV 2012)

Beck, R. & Bear, S. (2009) “Teacher’s Self-Assessment of Reflection Skills as an Outcome of E-Folios” in Adamy & Milman (2009) Evaluating Electronic Portfolios in Teacher Education. Charlotte: Information Age Publishers.

Beetham, H. (2005) e-Portfolios in post-16 learning in the UK: Developments, issues and opportunities http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/ documents/themes/elearning/eportfolioped.pdf Bruce, L (1994) Self-Assessment (Last accessed 4Nov2012) http://ozpk.tripod.com/000000selfassess

Butler, P (2006)  Review of the Literature on Portfolios and Eportfolios.  eCDF ePortfolio Project. Massey University College of Education. Palmerston North, New Zealand Crichton, S. and Kopp, G. (2008) “The Value of eJournals to Support ePortfolio Development for Assessment in Teacher Education.” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New York City, March 24–28, 2008.  An updated version of this paper was published by the British Columbia Ministry of Education, Innovations in Education, 2nd Edition, April 2011. Available online (PDF of book); Printable version of revised article: balancingarticle2.pdf

Dewey,J. (1933) How we think. How we think: A restatement of the relation of reflective thinking to the educative process. (1971 ed.). Chicago:Regnery

JISC (2008) Effective Practice with E-portfolios. Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) on behalf of JISC.

Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Paris, S., & Ayres, L. (1994). Becoming reflective students and teachers. Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association. Rebbeck, G (2008) e-Learning Coordinator, Thanet College, quoted in JISC, 2008). Zull, J. (2002). The Art of Changing the Brain. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing

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