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All education is about empowerment

“All education is about empowerment, whomsoever the learner might be”. Tennant (2009:154)

Tennant, M (2009) chapter 10 in Contemporary Theories of Learning – Lifelong learning as a technology of self.

Learning, Accessibility and Memory

Ebbinghaus ‘Forgetting Curve’

What does this say in relation to disabled students? What chances do we give them to record, then repeat or store components of their learning experience?

Where learning takes place at the most basic level. In relatoin to accessibility anything that hinders access to and accommodation of this process is a potential barrier or impact to learning.


Do models of disability lead to different stereotypes?

I enjoyed reading the whole Kaplan article, she mentions stereotypes a few times which got me thinking how the models often lead to stereotypes of people with disabilities.

Medical Model – sick role = excused from certain activities (Kaplan, 2000), currently somewhat scapegoated as fraudsters have permeated benefit-related aspects.  Stereotypes from victim to criminal to sponger.  In this model a disabled person is expected to rely on medical support to ‘improve’ or be ‘cured’.

Rehabilitation Model (related to Medical Model)   – disabilities are/may be ameliorated by professional supports.  Popularised by WWII war veterans and currently Paralympians (less publicised but related Special Olympians) – 2 heroic stereotypes I wouldn’t want to feel under pressure to emulate when I might just prefer to live my unremarkable life.

Social Model – States the environment is the disabling factor.   Doesn’t stereotype?

Charity Model – charity case, back to victim stereotype, someone who needs help and support, isn’t independent.

Administrative Model – People with disabilities are the sum of the forms they fill in and boxes they tick.  Assuming the forms are accessible and people declare any disabilities.  Provides information for other models.

Moral Model -Probably says more about religious stereotypes?  Pray/believe/repent enough and you’ll be healed… Or just wait for judgement day?  Or maybe God just made you this way for a particularly special reason?  Sinner or martyr?  Also has a cultural component like social model…

The Disability Model – normalisation puts people with disabilities as just another group of people with all the similarities and differences that you find in all large populations i.e. being autistic doesn’t also necessarily make you a savant with a special talent.  Purposefully doesn’t stereotype.  Relates to social model.

Legal Model – Wants people with disabilities to prove they’re disabled and disabled enough or not for whatever purpose (usually work-related, as in ability to work or not, and in discrimination cases).  Kaplan refers to American Disability Act plenty here.  Set one-size-fits-no-one criteria takes over as disabilities are labelled to the nth degree and spliced and diced into set pigeon holes.  Sounds quite dehumanising and  demoralising and yet the act is designed to counter discrimination.  Maybe I’m getting mixed up with the medical model?  Culturally-driven.

Universal Model – everyone may have a disability.  We all fit somewhere on the continuum of disability.  Non-stereotyping.

Minority Model – People with disabilities are a subset of the general population.  Stereotyped as different.

Discrimination Model? –  You have a disability if you are treated as having one or disabled by others actions and perceptions and assumptions.  Or because you’re in employment are considered not to have a disability, regardless.  Little ownership for those classed as disabled here, other peoples’ stereotypes decide.

Will sort myself out and head to the wiki minus the stereotypes.


Kaplan, D. (2000) ‘The definition of disability: perspective of the disability community’, Journal of Health Care Law & Policy, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 352–64

Learning about technology-enhanced learning with the Open University

Week 10

Activity 5, Blogs and blogging. Reading a paper on how students on another MAODE module used their blogs, and then doing some blogging yourself (about three hours).

A5: Blogs and blogging

Some of the same people who write academic journal papers also blog. This issue was explored some years ago by Mitchell (2006), for example, who wrote a newspaper articlein which she discussed issues about blogs and academic reputation.

Below are links to two blogs from members of the H800 module team – Gráinne Conole and Martin Weller. If you haven’t visited them yet (The Ed Techie was referred to in Activity 2), you may like to do so. Once you get there you may find you are clicking and reading for a long time! We haven’t included this in the activity time allowance, though we’ve given these links as suggestions for further reading at the end of this week. And if you enjoy them, you may want to keep coming back.

Recent postings from all blogs in the Institute of Educational Technology are brought together here.

Varying uses of blogs

Blogs can be used in many ways and for many purposes connected with learning and teaching. They can be used almost as a personal diary, for example, or to communicate with only a small audience. The idea of writing for a large and unknown audience does not appeal to everyone.

The OU’s Lucinda Kerawalla and colleagues, including Gráinne Conole whose blog is linked above, researched the differing purposes for which 15 students used blogs on one of the other MAODE modules. The authors found that:

Many of the students enjoyed blogging and found it to be beneficial from both educational and social perspectives. They used their blogs in several ways, including community building, resource-consolidation, sharing ideas, catharsis and emotional support, or as a personal journal. However, some students found blogging problematic; they were concerned about revealing their personally perceived academic inadequacies to others…

(Kerawalla et al., 2008)

The authors indicate that the students used their blogs for differing individual reasons. For example, some wrote for others in their community of students, while others used their blog more or less as a place to store urls and keep notes for themselves.


About three hours for reading a paper and blogging

  • Read the paper from which the quote above was taken. It is ‘Characterising the different blogging behaviours of students on an online distance learning course’. Allow up to an hour to study it and to make notes in response to the following questions, before moving on to the second part of the activity.
    1. What if anything surprises you about the findings from Kerawalla and her colleagues?
    2. Of the purposes for blogging identified in the paper, which purpose is most likely to encourage you to blog if you don’t already?And, if you already blog, which of those purposes is most important to you? Or do you do it for some other reason?
    3. If you work with learners who blog, how do their motivations compare (as far as you can tell) with those of the students in this paper?
    4. Based on the recommendations in the paper, or your own experience of blogging, how would you design activities to encourage learners to blog and to read and comment on each other’s blogs?When you’re considering this, you may like to think back to the paper from Kennedy et al. that you read in Week 1. There is also an optional paper in Weeks 13–14. In their research of first-year students at three Australian universities, the authors found that relatively few kept a blog, even though there are claims that this generation has an appetite for blogging. The authors argue that:
    • there is a real danger that such commentary will create a vague but pervasive feeling among tertiary educators that every student who enters the higher education system is a blogger.(Kennedy et al., 2007, p.522)

In response to the ‘how to get the best out of writing a blog’ question in the Week 16 quiz in previous years, students gave a number of blogging tips for those studying after them. Here are a few:

  • ‘Just appropriate the blog for your own needs and do what suits you most’
  • ‘Stick to one topic you are genuinely enthusiastic about’
  • ‘Try to set aside time each week to reflect on what you have learnt (even if it feels like nothing) as looking back can be quite illuminating’
  • ‘Start each blog with a single-sentence paragraph to act as a banner or lead-in to the piece’
  • ‘Go with the flow of your own thoughts: there’s no real right or wrong’
  • ‘Only write a blog if you feel like it, never because you have to’
  • ‘Blogs do not need to be time-consuming: post just enough to get your point across…’

You and blogging

You have probably detected some time ago that our aim is to encourage you to blog if you don’t already. Our hope is that one or more of the purposes and behaviours identified by Kerawalla et al. will spark your interest. We are not here thinking of ‘Anxious, self-conscious blogging to meet perceived course requirements’!

Even if you feel you won’t continue with it, it is important to experience this form of communication for a few weeks as part of your H800 study. You can then compare it as a learning and teaching technology with forums and with Elluminate, and with other media that you may already be using.

Perhaps you already have a blog. If not, you can access your OU blog space from StudentHome: under ‘Tools’ on the left-hand side of StudentHome, click on ‘Access to your personal blog’. You should find that you can choose whether to allow others to comment.

Please now spend some time writing your blog (whether you use the OU VLE or another tool):

  • You may like to write about some aspect of H800 that has engaged you, something interesting you have seen on another blog, or a couple of urls you found useful in Activity 4 – your own, or some that others found in your group.
  • There’s no single right way to blog, as you saw in the paper from Kerawalla et al. above. You could write about your own reactions as you blog:
    1. What sort of writing is it for you personally?
    2. How, if at all, does it help you to reflect on some aspect of H800, or your professional interests?
  • You could write about the way you organise your studying.
    1. How, for example, are you finding time to study H800 with all the other demands on your time?
    2. Is something else having to make way?
  • Read (and, where this is possible, leave comments on) the blogs of the others in your group and the other tutorial groups. Does this feel different from commenting on a forum message and, if so, how?
  • If you receive comments on your blog, are your reactions like those of the students reported in the paper by Kerawalla et al?This thinking about the process of blogging and commenting should enable you to compare the two forms of communication.

It’s one thing to contribute to a flash debate, it is quite another to embrace the Cloudworks platform.

It is one thing to contribute to a flash debate, it is quite another to embrace the Cloudworks platform.

There is only one way to test the water, and that is to get in. We talk of ‘swim lanes’ for learning design, I like every platform, every social network, business network or here, educational network, to be a visit to another pool, a lido, indoor or out, leisure pool or training pool.

They need to know who you are, you have to sign in. Then you have to change, get in, and give it a go.

So I am for the umpteenth time adding a profile picture and a profile, tagging, finding favourites debates and linking to people.

It all takes time.

Online you control time. Intensive engagement might move things along … on the other hand, it may irritate those who’ve been here a while.

It should take time.

Find the rhymn of the place, observe when and where there is a buzz. Identifiy the ‘champions,’ come in on the periphery, pick up a thread, join in tentatively, give it a go here and there.

I make a contribution to a Flash Debate on the futre and threats to universities

Universities will flourish as they become part of the mainstream and engaged with the world, rather than distinct from it. Relationships with governments, industries, schools (for future students) and alumni (for past student) will develop and become continual, rather than passing. Student cohorts may look the same on the ground, but in the virtual world will be broader and deeper, technology and systems allowing a greater diversity. Not all institutions will have the ability, whether through lack of financing, the burden of their past and costs, to be flexible and change. The overall impact will be of an evolutionary change, though for some it will be a fight for survival.


Established, motivated, well supported and well known colleges and institutions, where there is strength as a brand, as well as financially, in their governing body and from alumni will thrive. They can afford to exploit the changing circumstances (and they can’t afford not to). Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, Bristol, UCL and the OU are not about to go under. On the other hand, new, complacent, poorly supported, little known educational institutions where the sources of income and grants may be narrow or uncertain, with weak leadership and ill-established (or disloyal) alumni will fail.


The opportunities to flourish are extraordinary; the global demand for tertiary education with tens of millions of people from Asia, for example, seeking higher education over the next decade means that there is a growing and hungry market if you have the right ‘product.’ Education is a business, whether the model is that students are educated for free or pay part of the fees, cash flow matters. Retailing has been in constant flux, from the high street to out of town shopping, with national and international brands dominating, and then online shopping cornering certain markets, from books to electronic goods. Retailers have had to change the mix, where they locate and what they sell. Universities are less agile and less prone to the vicissitudes of short-term purchasing decisions, but the impact on them of new technologies is no less profound. Negotiating their way through this will require skill, the most vulnerable institutions will fail.


Letters after your name differentiate you from other candidates for a job or promotion. Where there are many applicants for the same position where you studied, indeed, who you studied with, will matter. It helps to study under the best in your field. It depends entirely on where you wish or plan to go afterwards, where and if a position or job requires a certain qualification, and if a qualification from one or another institution has greater perceived or actual value. However, as those with experience of the job market will tell you, it is how what you have been taught is applied and how you relate to other people, that will determine your success.


Technology is blending the two: increasingly students are opting for this, to be campus-based, but to take advantage of the technology to better manage their time or support their learning. Far from being the death-knell of the traditional university, new technologies will assist in their finding ways to develop and support a broader and deeper student body. Participation and collaboration, socialising away from the screen, is a vital component of the university experience for those coming out of secondary education – the demands and expectations of a mature student are very different. How people get on, how they work together, is a vital lesson that a campus based university offers. Whilst increasingly our online experiences are as ‘real’ as everything else we do, it is how and if we can work as a team that will decide how we progress. The student experiencing this will better know themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, and suitability for different career paths.


Like retailers, manufacturers, broadcasters, publishers and the post office, we are in a period of significant change, new technology was already having an impact, the economic down turn has aggravated this, obliging some forcing other institutions to act. How this change is managed will decide who survives and who struggles on. There is a fine line to tread between innovating early, or too late, changing wholesale or piecemeal. The wise institution not only spreads its risk, but also casts its opportunism just as wide as spreading your bets covers you in a world where nobody knows what will work or not. Libraries, one of the draws to a campus-based university, cannot be as influential as hundreds of millions of texts become instantly available in digital form. Senior lecturers and researchers should be employed for their ability to communicate, support and rally students around them, not simply because of the paper they are working on. Students will demand more if they feel it is the cash in their pocket that is buying what the institutions offers. Errors, failings and shortcomings of a person, a module or course, can be spread through online reviews and will decide their fate. New blends of courses will invent themselves where a student feels able, supported through e-learning, to cherry pick, even to study simultaneously quite different subjects. Cohorts, if on the ground still that 17-23 year old age group, will become far more diverse, with groupings formed by mutual interest in a subject. Life-long learning, already apparent in some professions, will become more common place as people recognise the need to refresh their understanding of some topics, while gaining new skills and additional insights.

Am I responding to a thread, or like the second or third speaker at an Oxford Union Debating Society getting up to say my piece?

And if I sit on the fence, what kind of debate is that?

We should be obliged to take sides, THAT would be a debate, otherwise it is a conversation, another online tutorial.

Thus far Cloudworks is like a new swimming pool, refreshing and full of opportunity. To thrive, let alone survive, it needs people coming down to swim, to jump in, to train, to meet …

And once you have your regulars, keep them coming back.

Debunking the myth of the digital native

An enthusiastic of Prensky a year ago and happy to buy into such labels having lived with them in advertising and marketing where extensive qualitative research labels consumers with all kinds of spurious, though fact based terms and categories to help sell products and services. However, with the concept of ‘Digital Natives’ ;’Generation Y’ et al we fall into the trap of wanting to believe we’re living through a revolution, content to listen to the hyperbole, without doing our own research or looking at that done by others, anything less is hear say, journalistic or fiction. We are not entering a ‘Brave New World’ of Alpha, Beta and Gammas.

The true picture, as we must all suspect, is far more complex than Prensky wishes us to believe and is moving faster, sometimes in unexpected ways, than a study carried out in 2006 can tell us.

Five years ago MySpace was still dominant over Facebook and whilst mobile phones are almost universal the SmartPhone was not; this alone could be realising the desires of the 2010 student undergraduate cohort to access the internet anytime, anywhere, and so to network, as well as reading and writing blogs.

Prensky made a general assumption, that this and many subsequent reports have replaced with scientific studies that show a more complex picture that debunk Prensky’s assumptions and notions.

Prensky suggests that the ‘digital native’ and corollary the ‘digital immigrant’ are universal then they are not.

He suggests that the experience of these technologies are universal, when they are not and so a cohort of students will share ‘sophisticated knowledge’ when they do not and that they will have a similar ‘understanding’ of these technologies, let alone a desire to use them for studying, when they do not.

My view is that if people acted on Prensky’s notions then too great a part of a student cohort would be disenfranchised, just as anyone would if they had an access issue. Research such as this, particularly more qualitative research carried out frequently, if not annually, given the rate of change, is required. Universities are selling something of far greater than Kellogg’s Cornflakes or Walnut Whips, so ought to apply some of the levels of research done by advertisers.

The authors’ conclusion regarding Prensky could not be more clear:

‘The widespread revision of curricula to accommodate the so-called Digital Natives does not seem warranted and, moreover, it would be difficult to start “Adapting materials to the language of Digital Natives” (Prensky, 2001a; p. 4) when they so obviously speak with a variety of tongues. (page 10)

What are the authors’ reasons for saying this?

Evidence based research.

‘The investigation reported in this paper would have benefited from more in depth, qualitative investigation of both students’ and teachers’ perspectives on technology from a broader range of universities which reflect the diversity of Australian higher education’.

How strong do you consider their evidence to be?

Convincing, with extensive qualitative research now required. Any technological integration should be pedagogically driven.

It should be proactive.

Universities should look to the evidence about what technologies students have access to and what their preferences are.

‘Rather than making assumptions about what students like – and are like – universities and their staff must look to the evidence to inform both policy and practice’. (page 11)

More research is needed to determine the specific circumstances under which students would like their ‘living technologies’ to be adapted as ‘learning technologies’.

The key desires of this 2006 student cohort was:

  • Access
  • Convenience
  • Connectedness

They also desired:

  • Blogs
  • Instant messaging
  • Texting
  • Social networking
  • RSS feeds
  • Downloading MP3s

Which I believe will be satisfied by the current and new generation of SmartPhone i.e. we’re going mobile, though I doubt this will mean we are all suddenly jumping ship and calling this m-learning rather than e-learning.

Reflecting on a first week of learning online on the MAODE module ‘Technology-enhanced Learning’ with the Open University

H800:8 Activity 2

Rather than a stiff, post-graduate and academic tone and choice of words I found the introduction to H800 engagingly informal and personable with everything covered: the practicalities as well as emotional response the task ahead. I find this a significant shift from H807 which had little introduction and was presented more like a piece of self-managed distance learning – you’ve signed up, here’s the door, enter and begin. I wonder if this is a sign that the OU is following the trend towards more informal learning practice?

I find it odd the way I now comprehend and relate to something that is said because I’ve experienced it, whereas before it would have registered simply as something I’m yet to do. All I’m talking about here is Elluminate or Skype, talking one to one or in a group to people whose personalities and interests you may only have some hint of from what they say and how they say it (and how often, and when). We reveal so much in our voices; our humour, mood, age, gender, where we grew up in our formative years (or not, which says something too). As someone who has for many years taken an interest in character and how it is revealed by these things I cannot help but think that I am taking part in some online improvisation.

By doing, we normalise it.

Speaking to people via the Internet is just a four/five or six-way conference call … with, synchronised computer diddling. The other week I met people I had only ‘met’ through the OU Blog which demystified and normalised the process (about time too). Blogging from 1999 it felt weird to find yourself hearing a person you’d spoken to for years, or to see them as they are rather than how you had them in your mind’s eye. Which in part explains my continued us of an MR scan rather than a mug shot (though there are plenty of these scattered through my OU blog). This was in part informed by some research on role play in online learning.

On reaching the end of H807 I felt I wanted to do it all again, that I’d missed a great deal, at times en missed the point.

On settling into H808 I found that what I needed to repeat was the way to work collaboratively online and to make some choice tools sing; this happened, so I got those parts of H807 I need over again. Entering H800 I look at any hint of repetition in a positive way, as a chance to pick it up again, engage a bit more, understand a bit more, perhaps even to take the initiative, and most certainly to guide or propose ways forward for others. The shocking thing is to feel that this is not the same person at the keyboard who was here a year ago. I have fire in my belly, a sensation that was my motivation in my teens, twenties and thirties. Where this will take me is another matter!

How people learn remains my fascination; the better I understand this, the better I will be able to apply it. This is primarily an intrinsic motivation – I find it extraordinarily rewarding to find ways to help people be the best that they can be, to create opportunities, to point them in the right direction or to offer support myself as a non expert tutor, or on a few topics as a subject matter expert myself. The short term reward is their progress; if I am paid to do this because I do it well, this is a bonus and would and in part does, allow me to be better, and more comfortable at it still. Even a roof over one’s head, food, the means to get around, the means to get online and bills paid is an achievement in the 21st century.

2) The MA is letters after my name (my second), so the cumulative benefit of the MAODE is the confidence, supported by the work undertaken to take on contracts, or to transition from agency work into working in-house.

My relationship to fellow students, as with a team in the real world, is far more one of contributing, sharing and experiencing this together.

Personal Development Planning came to the fore in H808; from this I recognise my need here to take the lead as someone who is on his third, not his first module. Already I hear myself thinking about how collaborative exercises have over the last 12 months either failed or succeeded. Someone has to take the lead, though this can and should be a ‘baton’ that is passed between those who during that period are most available to keep the kettle boiling, or the ball rolling to mix metaphors and trip myself up in the process!

I already use external blogs and forums extensively, something that has developed over the last 12 months.

I also feel that I participate actively online with a number of communities. Increasingly, as I would have hoped I am being proactive, setting up forum threads, leading interest in a community blog, even presenting potential projects to sponsors … and having a high profile job interview.

3) Therefore, the outcome for me in H800 is either to have a professional e-learning project financed and in production, or to be contributing to the learning and development needs of a global enterprise on contract or as an employee.

4) I hope I will start getting some of the IT basics right. To feel comfortable online with the fundamental tools of receiving and creating content.

How do you learn anything in a forum?

Fellow students are expressing understandable views regarding the way forums work; I wonder what the answer is?

If everyone is an active participant you could miss a day and find you are 40 thread behind the conversation. If you, understandably, are away for several days (work, holiday, crisis, illness) you could be 100 threads and 40,000 words behind.

I wonder if the approach, using an analogy I’ve already suggested regarding whether or not you speak to fellow commuters on a train (or bus) might be (or should be) to ignore all but the last 20% of posts, pick up the thread here and continue.

What I know you CANNOT do is try to pick up a thread that has gone cold; you may feel you want to respond to the way things developed since your departure … but everyone has moved on, may feel the question/issue has been dealt with and may not even come back to look at this page.

Over the year I’ve commented on lack of entries in blogs and threads from fellow students; the issue (an exciting and interesting position to be faced with) in H800 2011 may be the opposite – along comes a cohort that does Facebook and Twitter and may keep a blog, who can type at a million miles an hour and feel they have something to say.

How therefore to manage this explosion of content?

How about we ditch text in favour of a 3 minute webcam ‘update.’

Then again, 40 missed threads x 3 minutes equally a heck of a lot of viewing!

Mobile learning technologies

In fact any kind.

Coming out of H807 I felt I was ‘reading for a degree’ in the traditional sense of the words.

Entering H808 I found there’d be stuff I’d have to use, no escape.

In both instances I eventually got down to it; read masses in H807 and started to learn or relearn how to take an academic approach to research, reading and writing nad in H808 I tried everything, mastered some, reviewed everything, and saw gaps worth filling.

Just as there is the time to read everything there isn’t the time to try everything either. Whatever the software does (or is called) there will be six others just as good. Like all good consumers I may go by brand name, so Google, Microsoft, Adobe and even Facebook and Twitter are in.

Go with recommendations from fellow students who can demonstrate what they can do with these tools and talk about it at length; anything else might lead you down a blind alley.

Have two or three versions of something on the go until you’re happy. I’m for Firefox as a browser, but still use GoogleChrome while trying mywebsearch from time to time. I’ve had and have pictures in KodakEasyshare but find everything (as the rest of the family) now feeds into Picasa (I find it intuitive, streaming content from camera, through an edit, online then blogged in minutes).

So I have to go mobile.

My Sony Ericson is more matchbox that Smartphone, a pager, camera, phone thingey. Today I resolved to open the manual (I bought the thing 13 months ago). I have some pics trapped on the phone. I decide to find out how to get them onto the memory card, into Picasa Gallery and online. I find I might be able to send them to my Picasa Account or my daughter’s Facebook account. Odd that one. The picas route fails but I correctly identify one of the three versions of me running around Facebook and successfully upload a series of pictures taken over Christmas 2009. All the pics are sideways on and I cannot see that Facebook has an edit function.

I consider this to be an achievement; though I suppose there will be a cost. If its a £1 pic then I’m £12 down. Luckily I stopped it from uploading 93 pics.

Now however whenever I go to my phone I have a stream of Facebook drivel from my cousins various activities, with an occasional piece of nonsense from my 12 and 14 year old. How do I turn this off? (How did I turn it on!) Is it costing me anything.

What’s the use?

Learning Technologies say they are plenty of uses. I agree. Were this a business phone and a business Facebook group and everyone was chatting on a theme then being able to engage, or disengage from this lively on topic banter would be of value.

There are other pieces of software on my hit list for H800.

My attitude is to jump in fully clothed, wearing a life-jacket with a smile on my face. I my flouder, I may swim. I may need the life-jacket, I may not. But at some stage I’ll be hawled into a community lifeboat, pick up and oar and start to row. A few weeks in I might be at the helm and a few weeks after this I may strip off and dive in off the prow to go looking for something fresh.

i.e. behave like a teenager even if you’re not. And if you get stuck … ask a teenager. What I love about my children is that they will gladly offer to help. I then see that they are as clueless as me at first but after a few goes they manage to crack the code.

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