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Kiss the frog

Fig.1. ELearning Network team exercise

Throughout my career I have relished the company of like-minds that comes from being part of a ‘trade association’. Since I was a teenager I was part of the IVCA – the communications industry and the extensive use of video in training and communications.

Over the last decade, with the digital takeover and the demise of video in favour of faster, personalised delivery mechanism and smart learning online new associations have emerged. Personally, a Master of Arts in Open and Distance Education (MA ODE) has convinced me that video is a blunt, even bland and potentially forgettable and disengaging response to a learning need – well written text can be read at a pace set by the participant.

I joined the ELearning Network doing a bit online and following various stories. Last Friday I joined 30 or so for a day long series of talks. I was impressed. It worked.

Over the course of five hours there were five presenters – the format was engagement rather than lecture.

It gave me the perspective of the industry I wanted as I contemplate taking my interest in an academic approach to the next step – PhD research.

Where is the ‘smart e-learning’ and what can I isolate into a piece of original research that warrants three years of research and a 100,000 thesis?

I gained insights on:

  1. Composing questions
  2. The role of games and gamification
  3. Tools
  4. Design for social interaction
  5. Designing interaction: games, social, tutorial …

In the process our table invented a game called ‘Kiss the Frog’ where participants have to battle against the odds and each other to ‘kiss the frog’ – so that they too can become a frog and live happily ever after and a game to explain genetics in relation to colour-blindness.

Every bit of you contributes to your learning experience

20130420-071339.jpg

When it comes to learning, everything matters – epecially the tips of your toes.

‘Human learning is the combination of processes throughout a lifetime whereby the whole person – body (genetic, physical and biological) and mind (knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, emotions, beliefs and senses) – experiences social situations, the perceived content of which is then transformed cognitively, emotively or practically (or through any combination) and integrated into the individual person’s biography resulting in a continually changing (or more experienced) person’. Knud Illiris (2009:24)

In 1980 I worked the winter season in a Hotel in the French Alps. It was a 13 hour working day that started at 6.00am and included three hours off over lunch – 12h00 to 15h00. That’s when I went skiing – in all weather. That season, like this, had an abundance of ‘weather’ with more snow than even Val d’Isere could cope with. An avalanche took out an entire mountain restaurant … or rather burried them. They were fine and re-opened after a few weeks. Towards the end of the season I would shot up the slopes, in my M&S suit, with a plasticated boiler-suit like thing over it and skied the same run maybe 11 or 12 times before returning to the hotel and an afternoon/evening of carrying bags, digging cars out, taking trays of food, cleaning and translating French to English for the Hotel Manager. I had a Sony Walkman cassette player. I played Pink Floyd ‘The Wall’ and skied to ‘The Wall’.

33 years on, using the same skis if I want, the music on an iPhone, I manage three to five turns at a time … rest … three to five more turns … rest … three to five turns and take a suck on my Ventolin inhaler …. and so on.

And what comes to mind?

‘The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire’ Gibbon and Alexis de Tocqueville ‘L’Ancien Régime et la Révolution’ – both required reading before I started my undergraduate year of History later in 1981.

These are the games the brains plays on you. I can now of course recall Madame Raymond, the Hotel Manger, The Sofitel, Val d’Isere and Christian, the waiter who taught me to ski … and the word for dust ‘poussiere’.

And while up here 33 years later I have so far got through three books:

‘The A to Z of Learning Theory’ (2002), David Leonard; ‘Contemporary Perspectives in E-learning Research’ eds. Grainne Conole and Martin Oliver and ‘Contemporary Theories of Learning’ edited by Knud Illeris (2009) … from which I drew the above quote. The first covers some 150 learning theories – by the time you’ve finished it you may conclude that there is life and learning while death brings it to the end. As Illiris states, everything counts. The second is one of those academic compillations of papers. The title is disengenious as I could not find in ONE single paper (chapter) any attempts to give a perspective on e-learning research, rather these are papers on e-learning. Period. While the Knud Illiris edited book does the business with some great chapters from him, from Etienne Wenger and Yrjo Engestrom. So one is the K-Tel compilation from Woolworths, while the latter is ‘Now E-Learning’.

As it is still snowing I may have to download another book.

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Life is not a game and we are more than merely players

The act of playing chess, and the process of thinking it through is the joy and the learning.

What will be the point as or once all the answers are online?

Where we let algorithms and the Web provide the answers?

Does this mean that anyone can be a doctor so long as they have a smartphone in their pocket and a good connection?

Knowledge acquired is how learning occurs.

The learning process is necessary in order for the brain to make sense of it (or to make nonsense of it)

The key is in the memory making.

We learn, each of us, in a unique way.

Less so because of when or where we were born,

But because we were made this way.

‘Je suis comme je suis, je suis faite comme ca’.

Our DNA is unique and the brain it constructs also.

Not hard considering ….

  • There are some 98 billion neurons in there.
  • And every neuron has some 10,000 connections.

It is this mass of interconnections that makes us both ridiculous and smart,

Able to think in metaphors, provide insight, solve problems, conform, deform and inform.

And fall in and out of love.

Enthusiasms bubble up like farts in the wind.

Is life  like a game of chess?

Are we  its players and pieces whether we like it or not?

It is surely the sense of participation and control that makes life worth living?

Which suggests that absolute machine power – Google-eyed algorithms – could be no better than prison.

Life is not a game,

And we are more than merely players.

There is no need to strut and fret our hour upon the stage.

Unless …

It is a story we tell, defined by our actions and responses,

A rollercoaster of our own making.

There is no need for noise and tension, where we can be cool in war and love.

 

H817 Open MOOC Activity 4: Identifying priorities for research

English: Postage stamp depicting Martin Luther...

English: Postage stamp depicting Martin Luther, the initiator of the Protestant Reformation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Imagine you are advising a funding organisation that wishes to promote activity and research in the area of open education.

  • Set out the three main priorities they should address, explaining each one and providing a justification for your list. Share this in the Week 1 forum  and compare with priorities of others.

In this activity you are just expected to start thinking about these issues, and to use your own experience and intuition; you are not expected to research them in depth. You will build on this work during next week, and also for the assignment.

1. Get noticed

A clarion call to those who matter to you online to take notice, take an interest, give it some thought and give it a go. Get the message right. Know why you are doing it. Express it with conviction, professionalism and enthusiasm. Seek out like-minded people.

 

2. Use the medium

All Martin Luther could do was nail an edict to a church door, but it started the Reformation. There too many doors, and a plethora of nails when you go online. Brief  a team of web experts and web savvy to design a platform and structure that is robust and provides ‘scaffolding’ for what comes next. A river is free and open, a flood or tsunami cannot be controlled. Put in a slide and provide kicker floats and water polo balls. Gather ‘big data’. Watch everything and keep a record.

 

3. Be a great host

In France you’d be called an ‘animateur’ or ‘realisateur’ in North America you might be ‘the host with the most’ and in Britain ‘a jolly good chap or chappess’. To go online successfully is to transfuse the live component of the institution you represent into the World Wide Web – think of it as an organism that requires nurturing. Be there for them. Have plenty of eager, online net residents to welcome the naïve and the expert, the time starved and those with time on their hands.

Visual expressions of Open Learning

PART ONE

 Sequence showing my conceptions of the shift in learning.

From traditional top down, to horizontal and collaborative and what’s goes in in the human brain – the interaction between different parts of the brain.

However, whilst this might be an expression of traditional classroom based teaching, through to collaborative Web 1.0 and the semantic Web 2.o as I have illustrated before, the reality is that all of these approaches are going on simultaneously: we still have, and benefit from top down learning – being told or shown stuff, there is collaborative learning, more so in certain subjects.

The second line suggests how things are changing: traditional learning being tipped on its head and on its side or at various angles as an institution, or policy changes, due to the influence of the teacher or because of the subject.

Horizontal learning from siblings, friends, family and extended family – always there in the past goes into hyper-mode as we can connect with ease with many of these people making every day like a family event if you so choose, following and joining in with the antics of others or sharing thoughts on school and life. I should add unconscious learning too – asleep, that sorting process we go through when we dream.

I doubt, from what I am coming to understand about neuroscience, that activity in the brains is greatly different or increased courtesy of the Internet or that stimulation has increased – this is for various reasons: our brain gets bored with the familiar, we turn off, we filter, we select. There is a limit to how much can be process. We give up other things to engage online – though I wouldn’t think giving up ogling at the TV all evening is any loss – the average viewing in the UK is 4 hours a day? Really!!

Open Learning is the last image in the bottom right hand corner – a lot going on, a good deal of connectivity.

But not less perhaps than living in a close, frenetic, village community – more akin to how we lived thousands of years ago with the world at our doorstep rather than our being squirreled away as we now are.

Traditional learning

Informal learning (circles look good, or a hub)

Neuroscience for Dummies (a great intro to the subject, I recommend it!)

Put it all together – as your brain does in sleep, and as occurs anyway as you daydream in class or have a parent help you with homework … 

Open Learn is kindle in the fire … it stokes it up, motivating, demotivating and distracting. Key is the continued connectivity to friends and family wherever they may be. That ‘hub’ of activity you may get after a family holiday or gathering can be with you in your pocket to support and advise. 

Is this what Open Learning looking like? More of what we’ve always had, but now, if you want him, your grandfather can sit on your shoulder all day – in our family my brother would have been asking advice on car maintenance, I would have been quizzing him on first hand detail of the war.  Cousins often get briefings from my father-in-law a retired Oxford Philosophy Tutor.

And now, courtesy of all learning online, open and formal, the action really gets going. Or does it? Is it not simply replacing something else? The very active person in clubs, societies, in a large extended family and so on would be getting this anyway?

PART TWO

This second A2 sheet works with Vygotsky and Engestrom and the idea of how we construct knowledge in a context.

The second image shows the familiar Activity System, an expanded version of how Vygotsy expressed how we learn. The activity system has six interacting components: subject and object, mediated by tools or artefacts, rules, community and division of labour. Enegstrom’s next generation expression of the Activity System is to show two systems interacting, the key here being the interaction of two objects or outcomes to produce a third.

This model is manageable, with set links between the components.

‘In the field’ it is possible to allocate roles to people or departments, to kits and guidelines but then on the second line you start to consider how many activity systems are connected. However, it is no longer simply the case that there is one point of contact – this drive to an outcome or objective.

Already authors wonder if Activity Theory (I have the reference I’ll dig it out for you) can no longer apply, that it has melted.

The middle image in the middle of the bottom row circumvents the set connections to indicated that everything can interact with everything else. Feed this into a multitude of Activity Systems (the final diagram in the bottom right) and you see what complexity is created – the suggestion being that the there is more direct connecting between people with no mediation factors or systems. This assumes that there are no gatekeepers or other barriers, but increasingly, in tertiary education you may find yourself in a discussion alongside the biggest names in your field, whether you are an undergraduate, postgraduate or doctoral student, no matter what institution you are signed up to.

In fact, it is far more open than that of course – by chance or because of an enthusiasm or wish to connect anyone in theory can connect with anyone else – or at least with those who are taking part.

Some 4% of the population in Great Britain who by all accounts should be digital residents don’t event visit – there lifestyle choice is not to use the Internet, just as in the past people may have chosen not to have a TV. Another13% don’t have access at all – no connection, no kit, no space or place to use kit that is shared. And this is the UK. So Open Learning, though not exclusive, cannot be called universal.

Of course, being a purist, if you’re interested in Vygotsky you need to study him in Russian. Now where is there an Open Learn course on Russian?

Models work, as do metaphors, but with the digital world are all such models melting like sheet ice in a warming climate? Merged and blurred like so much ink dripped into a digital ocean?

Though Engestrom sees this as things and institutions, I like to see two people here, say an Art Director and Copywriter working together to solve problems. Two heads better than one and all of that. Any psychologists out there might offer me person to person models as alternatives. 

And how many institutions can and do interact? Think of a $100m movie. Think of planning the Olympics. Think of six people with different skills and experiences working together. 

Is this what Open Learning looking like?

At what point does the model break down?

Become redundant? Even ideas of ‘learning from the periphery’ (JS Brown and Duguid) falls apart if there is no centre, and no periphery, if everyone is equally ‘linked in’ with no degrees of separation at all, where you are anyone else’s father, brother or son. (mother, sister or daughter).

Engestrom ends up using the metaphor of a Mycorrhizae fungi growth such as this.  I also found this rather beautiful image. But can art therefore fool? Something beautiful that is attractive and persuasive may not acutally be representative of the ‘truth of the matter’ – but what is?

Mycorrhizae = the real thing (apologies to the originator, when I can find the reference I will add it)

Which has me thinking of something more fluid, like the water cycle (think digital ocean into the could, then back again)

And in a system, as something more dynamic, with patterns behind the chaos.

In which case, to my mind, Open Learn and e-learning is like global warming to the climate – it is simply putting more energy into the system. Just re-annotate the above (which I will eventually get round to doing).

And if this doesn’t make your brain hurt or your jaw drop take a look at this:

Scale of the Universe

and click on ‘Powers of Ten’ which is, I feel, evocative of Open Learning too – scalable from the micro to the infinite.

REFERENCE

Engestrom, Y Various. I recommend ‘From Teams to Knots’

Vygotsky, L (1926 if you want it in Russia, 1974 for the first translations into English)

Rebecca Eynon from the OII  for ‘Mapping the Internet’ stats on GB Internet use.

(I’ll flesh this out in due course. There are a dozen references related to the above. But this is Open Learning. You get my thoughts on this in all its various drafts).

Here in Lewes we shut the town centre down for a march as often as we can.

It all stems from 5th November. We had only been here a couple of months and we were enrolled in a Bonfire Society. That was 13 years ago.

The town also has a Moving on parade for all primary schools in the district, not just the town, but from outlying villages. The town centre is closed to traffic and kids, dressed up, carrying banners and whatnot on a theme, march through town and end it with a party in the Paddock – a large field, formerly part of the earthworks around the 11th century Lewes Castle.

It helps to make an occasion of something when we move on. We’re rather good at it:

  • Christenings
  • Marriage
  • Death
  • Birthdays
  • Anniversaries
  • Graduation

I’m down for Brighton or will try to enroll in Versailles for my graduation. I skipped my first nearly three decades ago. I just didn’t feel like moving on. I hadn’t felt I’d had an education to justify the fuss. My fault, not theirs. I put in the hours and came out with an OK degree but that isn’t why I’ll remember my undergraduate years.

I should mark moving on, and away from this blog. It logs, day by day, and in the background countless pages of hidden notes. It has carried me through the Masters in Open & Distance Education.

H809, my bonus track, will mark the end.

For this reason I am migrating most of the content and the journey it records to an external blog.

My Mind Bursts

From time to time I’ll post a note at the bottom of the page to say this is where it’ll be from June.

My moving on.

By May, I’ll also know if the next few years have been set up. We’ll see. I may even be back at the OU in some capacity. I rather

 

OLDS MOOC NARRATIVES

OLDS MOOC 1

OLDS MOOC 1 (Photo credit: penbentley)

 

Summary

 

I am use to problem solving techniques having used them in corporate communications and training for some 25 years. The contrast between higher education and learning and development always fascinates me – they are so different. Simply put the L&D drive is usually to deliver more for less and to measure and justify the spend. It has to work and shown to work, saving money and improving results on previous approaches, so typically reducing and eliminating the cost of travel, overnights and being away from work. There will be a budget, schedule and brief. There will be a team of participants, a key player at the client end with their colleagues, support and their own line manager/director. The agency team will in all likelihood involve six or more people: project manager, learning design, subject matter expert, writer, designer, programme and an assortment of graphics designers, visualizers and testers. This seems to be in sharp contrast where those in education have no budget, no time and little support and in the old model of the lone teacher and their class have to come up with everything on their own, plan and create in their own time and often have systems and kit foistered on them.

 

At the beginning of the week I looked at the time allocated to the OLDS MOOC by the OLDS MOOC team and quickly learnt to DOUBLE the time that would be required. And in the two most busy weeks I had working on Personas and Design I spent 12-16 hours on the reading, the activities themselves and maintaining contact with a fledgling group. This kind of commitment became unsustainable as I needed increasingly to commit this time to other projects.

 

I wonder if young people should start work part time at 14 as they did 100 years ago, and do so with a close, online support. They will increasingly benefit from sophisticated learning systems and catalogues and be able to apply what they learn.

 

Context

 

What were the conditions and constraints in which your design experiment was situated?

 

Online, for me this mean STANDING at the dining room table. This is my office. After some Horizon programme on health I now stand all day. Works for me, in fact I find I am more alert and have had no back or no strain since … though the ball of my left foot doesn’t like it and I’ve worn through the slippers my daughter bought me for my birthday. This is context for me. The dog watches me all day expecting to me taken for a work. The ‘footfall’ is such morning and later afternoon that I am disturbed by family members at meal time. Come to think of it, I prepare these meals so that’s another period of disruption to me day. 4 x 3 hours across the day is how I try to operate. That is before breakfast, after breakfast, after lunch and after dinner.

 

I don’t recommend it. In the past I have walked up the road or driven a few miles to an office. In future I would hope at least to have an office ‘down the garden’.

 

This context has the potential to be highly disrupted as the ebb and flow of family life runs through the house – teenage children at, or not at school and my wife who also works from home even more stressed when she has no work than when she does. When she has work lucky her enters her study and is only ever seen at meal times … and perhaps if either she wakes me late at night, or I wake her early in the morning.

 

This is the context. I could relate this to years in various production and agency offices working on linear then, as we quaintly called it ‘non-linear’ interactive training. More recently experience of the 9 to 5 has been blissful as a team of 8 on a project in an office of 50 or so hunker down collectively to the task in hand. In this context an e-learning project, like producing TV and video (and film) where I have experience, runs almost like clockwork. I say almost because occasionally there is an overnighter or weekend panic.  I have a dream context it would be the new Google-plex, especially with the opportunity to camp out on the roof if you’ve got a deadline and would prefer to hang out around the office.

 

Material

 

What are the spatial characteristics of the settings? What tools and resources are available to protagonists?

 

See above. Kit is one desktop, two laptops and an iPad.

 

A scanner and digital camera.

 

Art materials. A print on the wall is taken down in the morning and replaced with a white board. I resist the guitar, TV and piano.

 

Though there is a game of chess in permanent suspended animation between my son and I. The greater distractions are the ability and desire to read niche books and download papers before I add a fullstop to the end of a sentence

 

This is my office. I don’t know what others tools and constraints others have.

 

Cloudscape is the VLE, it the blog, is our social network and ought to be our singular means of communication. We are all used to and happy with other platforms. To be this comfortable online we have learnt to make our favourite tools sing. I feel as if I have spent over a decade learning the flute, guitar and piano to play in an orchestra and have been told to drop these to play an accordion in a brass band.

 

Social

 

Who are the protagonists, what are the relationships between them, and what are the social and institutional configurations in which they operate?

 

I am used to working online. In 1999 I was in touch with a writers group through my blog that ran ‘til 2004. Our office was a cloud somewhere above the North Atlantic that shifted as other members moved in turn to Japan, then South America, Scotland … then back to North America. Even in an office I work online, typically using a wiki like collaborative e-learning design/build platform. This is genius. Each project may have between 5 minimum and 8 people on it – more where assistance is required or the deadline gets close – which are also points where around the office people start to gather to meet and those working from home come in. I’ve done this too as a postgrad student – I forget which MAODE module but six of eight gelled on a two work collaborative project between New Zealand, Thailand, Germany and the UK. In the OLD MOOC one, then two then occasionally, perhaps three of us worked on the same project. It was touch and go and after five weeks it fizzled because the ‘team leader’ as it were who had been instrumental in galvinising a couple of us to join in felt they could no longer do it. Perhaps she’d got the answers she needed. I do rather think that a couple of meetings and a solution was in place … find the right person to ask how? and you take their response on faith and you are done without having to plan the construction of the Empire State Building. Designing a one hour e-learning intro to multimedia is vastly different to designing a 60 credit MBA module on creative problem solving. I don’t even think they compare if we were to use the metaphor of architecture (Christopher Alexander, 1970). One was a few bricks to make an outdoor BBQ, while the other is a self-build six bedroom house. (with indoor swimming pool).

 

I have written screenplays and TV … no more credits than a short on Channel 4. I hear ‘protagonist’ and I need the antagonist and an entire family of other characters. Narrative is driven by conflict. This is where the metaphor or structure is weak – there should be no conflict where there is collaboration.

 

If there were to be an ‘antagonist’ then it would be Cloudworks. It has a character of its own which I’m afraid I would described as doomed – rather like the Titanic. There was conflict in this narrative and it was always with the platform. Importantly the other characters, the players were the extraordinary array of character actors, the big name e-learning academics who have been schedule in for a star turn each week. They are players in this performance … as they led each week, and happily shared thoughts with us directly. Indeed, contact with the glitterati of e-learning who for an MAODE student have been largely noticeable by their absence during the last three years – figure heads while moderator/facilitator tutors with very varied interest guide the students through … but I’m wandering onto a different stage.

 

As players, these e-learning top guns, perhaps with a vested and professional and academic interest in how the MOOC plays out have been exception – all educators who, escaping the restrictions of distance and online learning, would surely enjoy and gain from ‘teaching’ by giving lectures from time to time, but more importantly sitting down with students in tutorials too. I think the loop into cyberspace with e-learning is coming home and that the desire by students and tutors alike will be to have more face to face, online and in person. I cannot help but KNOW that had those of us in our MOOC group who could have said, let’s all meet in person in such and such a place that that meeting would have bound us as a team to the end of the MOOC. This is why meetings still happen.

 

The constraints are (negative drivers):

 

  • Working online
  • Working with strangers
  • Working without pay
  • Working without the likelihood of the project being realised
  • The unlikeliness of meeting face-to-face
  • Cloudworks – Why send us to Mars when there are familiar landscapes where we could work?
  • Time (each participant runs to a different schedule and agenda).

 

Positive drivers:

 

  • When meet someone with a common goal
  • Leadership from a project that others wish to follow
  • Using a variety of tools with which we are familiar to communicate
  • The comprehensive nature of the OLDS MOOC
  • The liveliness and commitment of the OLDS MOOC team
  • Time (it is my own, but other commitments jostle for attention)

 

Intentional

 

What are the protagonists beliefs, desires and intentions, which shape the problem space?

 

This ‘space’ does exist where there is a fixed landscape, even one that is online via a blog, a common social group or website. This ‘problem space’ where the protagonists meet has to have a sense of space and place. In Cloudworks, and this is my second effort to work in it, the reflection of real-life hubs and nodes simply do no exist. I still find it impossible to log directly into my own cloud, let alone find those of the groups I took an interest in or get back to the base camp. In our group we rapidly debunked to email and Google docs. I’ve done this on other platforms too – in a student group where Elluminate had failed twice, or the tutor was clueless at how to operate that construction from the mind of Professor Brainstorm, we debunked successful and repeatedly to Google Hangouts – the ultimate bond being a ‘pyjamma party’ which reminded me that none of us wanted to do any of ‘this’ unless it was fun. .

 

Force Map

 

 

This may pre-empted the MOOC by a week but expresses three things in relation to team work

 

  1. top down hierarchical
  2. democratic
  3. everyone pitches in

 

For me this might illustrate working on a programme of work or curriculum for a school ten years ago, working on a creative project in the last five years where everyone has direct contact with each other and finally, online collaboration where not only can you be inside each other’s heads and beds (see Google Hangout above), but there can be, for good or bad, other interlopers and powers getting involved.

 

This could also be drawn up in a series of Activity Theory plans … not just from first to third generation, but in the final episode in which an activity system, like icicles in spring, melts.

 

Challenge

 

In advertising and corporate communications we might create a campaign to launch a new beer in a country, launch a new range of cars, or run a Government health awareness campaign over three years and it is reduce to A SINGLE PAGE OF A4.

 

The most important question is:

 

  • What is the problem?

 

If there isn’t a problem there can be no answer, no advert, no campaign. The same applies to academic research – the proper research question has to be to address a problem. If there isn’t a problem then the enterprise is already a shopping trolley with a missing wheel. This applies to EVERY training video, every interactive DVD, or web-based learning project I have been involved with. It there isn’t a problem to fix then the learning is unnecessary. If you cannot express it as a problem, then stop.

 

The advertising brief continues:

 

  • Who are you speaking to?
  • What do you want to say?
  • How do you want them to respond to this message?
  • Is there anything else we need to know.

 

And all of this must be researched and worked on until it can be kept to a SINGLE SHEET OF A4. i.e. a sentence or two in response to each of these questions.

 

I apply this to running a 12 week series of classes in Primary School, a day long workshop on revision techniques, a 9 month squad swimming programme, an hour long e-learning module, an 8 minute short film, a poster campaign for the local sailing club, teaching 3,000+ swimming teachers how to fix breaststroke …

 

Theoretical / Pedagogical Framework

 

See above.

 

Actions

 

I proposed a ‘design’ that has worked dozens of times before – a weekend workshop with no need to do anything online. Indeed, having been made to think it through that was the conclusion.

 

I keep an OLDS Mooc journal.

 

Obstacles

 

Two, maybe three … or was it four complete strangers, all busy full time elsewhere, most of us new to this game, trying to commit to something were increasingly we felt lost. From beginning to end I had no idea whether there were 10 people, maybe 25 people or just 3 doing the MOOC. If there were a 1000 then I never had any sense of this, not a stream of tweets and messages, not long lists of names. None of it. In sharp contrast the last two MOOCs I have taken an interest in I felt as if from day one there were 10,000 people sharing the same Ferry energizing in and out by transporter

 

Results

 

To work online is to complement meeting face-to-face. Projects I join or initiate in the real world might begin online, become a conversation and relationship but then develop and embed by meeting. If it is a speculative, even an unpaid project (I’ve done a number of these), then people get the measure of each other and are far, far more likely to commit to the end.

 

  • Roles are established
  • Motives are understood
  • Diaries are compared
  • Problems identified and resolved

 

This can be done online but needs at least a Skype or Google hangout level of interaction. There is a reason and value to seeing a person’s face. There is a reason why the face is so expressive – it is a vital form of comprehension, communication and connection.

 

A three person team became two, then none.

 

Despite expressing interest in four other projects NOT ONE of these people came back in any shape or form to express an interest in my contributing to their effort. I pitched in some ideas, was ignored … so in turn ignored them.

 

Reflections

 

I keep a learning journal. No longer a person diary, but a record of everything I do that relates to work and personal development – which for me is learning, with a significant nod to learning online and e-learning / e-coaching.

 

These posts happen to be in my Open University Student blog as the OLDS MOOC complements the postgraduate courses I have done over the last three years to complete the Masters in Open & Distance Education.

 

I was able to being the OLDS MOOC with a clear diary – this became busier after week 5 and as the only group that I had joined that showed traction faded away it became less easier to justify staying onboard. I do however follow the activity, read through the weekly activities and dip into some knowing that in my own time, or should the course be repeated, that I will re-join in order to do the subsequent weeks.

 

As a ‘narrative’ I would prefer to write three or four short stories. There is a narrative to specific busy weeks, particularly my/our love hate relationship with Cloudworks,  ‘Personas’ where I was able to consolidate knowledge of the extensive use and development of Personas at the Open University Business School, extending my interest in design based research, bringing my knowledge and understanding and practical application of Activity Theory into focus, using Activity Cards, which was the highlight of the my time on the OLDS MOOC, bringing a pack of cards into the real world, to shuffle, pick through and then lay out on the kitchen table and share – this would be an invaluable activity to use with colleagues in  workshop. And formulation of my own conception of Learning Activities, which I reduced to THREE, from Grainne Conole’s Seven and named them ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’.  Working in corporate Learning & Development e-learning modules run for 45 minutes to an hour, they don’t require the kind of thinking that is required and justified by a 30 or 60 point module in tertiary education where the OLDS MOOC is squarely aimed..

 

 

 

To teach is to nurture and the best metaphor for the mind is to see it as a garden

Fig. 1. My own vision of education as nurturing – like growing plants in a garden

‘Her metaphor for the brain is that of a garden, that’s full of the most interesting,  different things that have to be constantly cultivated and constantly checked‘.  This was Kirsty Young  introducing her guest, Professor Uta Frith. (01:24 into the transmission, BBC Radio 4 2013)

Professor Uta Frith of University College London was on Desert Island Discs for the second time this week  – this time round I paid close attention. I then went to the BBC website and took notes.

Having recently completed the Open University postgraduate module H810 Accessible Online Learning and of course interested in education, this offers insights on what studying autism and dyslexia tells us about the human mind.

There’s more in another BBC broadcast – Uta Frith interviewed for the BBC’s Life Scientific – Broadcast 6 Dec 2011 accessed 1st March 2013 – and available, by the way,  until January 2099 should you not be able to find time and want your dyslexic grandchildren to listen.

The difference between someone who is autistic and the rest of us is how we each of us see the world.

‘We learn by taking different perspectives – something about ourselves which we otherwise would have never known’. Uta Frith (2013)

‘Take what’s given to you and make the best of it, but of course the cultivation is key to all of these things, so culture in our lives, learning from other people … these are the really, really important things’. Uta Frith (2013)

We may all have some of this in us.

Genetic factors matter.

‘How we are raised is a myth. It is not right. It has been so very harmful. It is a illusion to think that doing the right things, for example that you get from books, that you can change things.’ Uta Frith (2013)

Then from BBC’s Life Scientific

‘A passionate advocate of neuroscience and how its findings can be used in the classroom to improve learning. She hopes that eventually neuroscience will inform education in the same way that anatomy informs medicine’. (01:35 in, BBC 2013)

Uta Firth wants knowledge of the brain to inform education the way knowledge of the body informs medicine.

Professor Uta Frith is best known for her research on autism spectrum disorders. Her book, Autism, Explaining the Enigma (1989) has been translated into many languages. She was one of the initiators of the study of Asperger’s Syndrome in the UK and her work on reading development, spelling and dyslexia has been highly influential.

Throughout her career she has been developing a neuro-cognitive approach to developmental disorders.

In particular, she has investigated specific cognitive processes and their failure in autism and dyslexia. Her aim is to discover the underlying cognitive causes of these disorders and to link them to behavioural symptoms as well as to brain systems. She aims to make this research relevant to the education of people with development disorders and to contribute to a better quality of their everyday life.

The above profile form the UCL pages

Further Reading/Viewing

Uta Frith on YouTube on early years, then on dyslexia

Frith, U (1989/2003) Autism – explaining the enigma (second edition)

Frith, U (2008) Autism – a very short introduction

REFERENCE

Uta Frith, Desert Island Discs, BBC Radio 4, Transmission accessed 1st March 2013

Uta Frith, The Life Scientific, BBC Radio 4, from BBC website as a podcast (accessed 1st March 2013

University College London, Staff. Website (accessed 1st March 2013)

 

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.

Self and Peer Grading on Student Learning – Dr. Daphne Koller

Fig. 1. Slide from Dr Daphne Koller‘s recent TED lecture (Sadler and Goodie, 2006)

I just watched Daphne Koller’s TED lecture on the necessity and value of students marking their own work. (for the fifth time!)

Whilst there will always be one or two who cheat or those who are plagiarists, the results from ‘Big Data’ on open learning courses indicate that it can be a highly effective way forward on many counts.

  1. it permits grading where you have 1,000 or 10,000 students that would otherwise be very expensive, cumbersome and time consuming
  2. as a student you learn from the assessment process – of your work and that of others
  3. student assessment of other’s work is close to that of tutors though it tends to be a little more harsh
  4. student assessment of their own work is even closer to the grade their tutor would have given with exceptions at opposite ends of the scale – poor students give themselves too high a grade and top students mark themselves down.

Conclusions

  •  it works
  •  it’s necessary if learning reach is to be vastly extended
  • isn’t human nature a wonderful thing?! It makes me smile. There’s an expression, is it Cockney? Where one person says to another ‘what are you like?’

Fascinating.

‘What are we like?’ indeed!

REFERENCE

Philip M. Sadler & Eddie Good (2006): The Impact of Self- and Peer-Grading on Student Learning, Educational Assessment, 11:1, 1-31

 

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