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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:
- Composing questions
- The role of games and gamification
- Design for social interaction
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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:
and click on ‘Powers of Ten’ which is, I feel, evocative of Open Learning too – scalable from the micro to the infinite.
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).
- Openness in Education WK1 MOOC (mymindbursts.com)
- Inter-life, Young People and Activity systems (mymindbursts.com)
- OLD MOOC 2013 – Why Activity Theory needs to be seen, not itemised, to have any chance of being understood (mymindbursts.com)
- “More Complex Than the Milky Way?” –Project ‘Blue Brain’ and New Insights into the Biochemical Makeup of the Human Brain (dailygalaxy.com)
- Martin Weller and the MOOCers (mymindbursts.com)
- Has education come full circle? (jmajor.org)
- Who would you invite to an e-learning dinner party? (mymindbursts.com)
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?
|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 …|
|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.
Analysis – The survey generated both quantitative and qualitative data.
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:
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’.
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)
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.
- Let the journey begin… (chelseachavira.wordpress.com)
- One More Look @ Introversion: Digital Literacy and the Quiet Child (solve4why.wordpress.com)
- 8 Reasons Should Blog About Your Postgraduate Life (postgrad.com)
- Getting More Out of Student Blogging | Sue Waters Blog (suewaters.com)
- To Blog or Not To Blog? (careersandplacements.wordpress.com)
- What Inspires me to Blog? (prefs.zemanta.com)
- What Are the Dos and Don’ts of Blogging? (bizsugar.com)
- What Kind of Blogger Are You? 7 Different Blogger Types Explained. (zemanta.com)
- I hate blogs (stumblegrumble.wordpress.com)
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.
- it permits grading where you have 1,000 or 10,000 students that would otherwise be very expensive, cumbersome and time consuming
- as a student you learn from the assessment process – of your work and that of others
- student assessment of other’s work is close to that of tutors though it tends to be a little more harsh
- 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.
- 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?’
‘What are we like?’ indeed!
Philip M. Sadler & Eddie Good (2006): The Impact of Self- and Peer-Grading on Student Learning, Educational Assessment, 11:1, 1-31
- Online university giant gets bigger (bbc.co.uk)
- To be told when you are right or wrong is essential to student learning (mymindbursts.com)
- Massive online education: Daphne Koller at TEDGlobal 2012 (ted.com)
- Who would you invite to an e-learning dinner party? (mymindbursts.com)
- TED Talk: What we’re learning from online education (ezrasf.com)
- Technology brings classroom experience to distance learners (guardian.co.uk)
- What we’re learning from online education by Daphne Koller (bluesyemre.com)