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Fig. 1. Learning in the digital age. J F Vernon (2013)
You’re missing a trick if you’re ignoring eBooks.
My experience studying at postgraduate level over the last four years, first with the Open University and now with the University of Birmingham as well is that we need to consider and experience the affordances of both.
Fig. 2. EBook vs. the Book. It’s largely down to context – do you read on the go, or in a library? Have you got shelf space?
I will own the book and the eBook in some circumstances as they offer a different experience and options.
If you are studying a subject in a social context online it helps to be able to share what you find and think as you read. I did this with Martin Weller’s book ‘The Digital Scholar’ and found he was reading along through Twitter and my blog. I find where I have the printed book that I take photos of pages, mash these up and then share online – or resort to pen, paper and note taking in the traditional, lonely way. Then there are the huge tomes, some of the history books I am getting through right now that run to 900 pages – it is so much easier to carry around on the iPad. Using an eBook I highlight by themes of my choosing, add notes, Tweet short passages, seek out threads on single characters, link directly to references and post mash-ups from screen-grabs rather than photos straight into a e-portfolio so that the idea or issues are tagged and ready for later use.
Non-fiction books will become like some LPs of the past – do you want all the tracks or just your choice?
If I can buy 12 chapters of a book for £8.99 on Kindle, when will I be able to buy for 99p that one chapter I need? Speaking to a senior engineer from Amazon over the summer (old friends who moved to Silicon Valley twenty years ago) he wondered if the ‘transformative’ period for books was about to occur, just as it has occurred with music.
There will be a better, personalised hybrid form in due course, several of which I have tried. So far they have been marred by only one thing – poor content, the clickable, multimedia, well linked experience is apt for the 21st century.
Fig. 3. Mash-up from Martin Weller’s book ‘The Digital Scholar’ using the App ‘Studio’ to add text and icons to a cropped grab of a page.
Nothing replaces scholarship though , it’s just going to take a while to make the transition.
What happens when connected as ‘like-minds’ six or seven such individuals ‘collaborate’ to perform some atrocity?
Fig.1. Dr. No.
Society online is a society on speed and at speed – it might reflect society but in the Alice in Wonderland World Wide Web everything is faster, connectable and so warped in a way that transcends human scales of time, distance and decency. One sick, warped, isolated individual seeking out the pollution of the web to feed their fantasy and make it real, like Anders Behring Breivik in Norway in 2011 was, if you profile the population, 1 in 10 million.
What happens when connected as ‘like-minds’ six or seven such individuals ‘collaborate’ to perform some atrocity?
What indeed does the web afford ‘networked’ terrorist idealists such as AL Qaeda? Attending a seminar on cyber crime at the Oxford Internet Institute last year it was revealing and shocking to learn of the ‘game of catch-up’ played between the criminals hacking bank accounts and the banks trying to keep them secure. The head of internet security from Barclays painted a picture that would make the scriptwriters of a James Bond movie go googled-eyed in amazement. Then, far from society creating the Web, the web world infects us ‘on the other side’ with paranoia and so CHANGES behaviour, gets AHEAD of society.
It has happened to me more than once – in the early days of blogging back in 2002 I was ‘flamed’ viciously (malicious hate in comments and a breach into my blog that had this person editing my content and filling it with bile). I had this stopped and attempts were made to trace the character but for a period I was convinced that any vehicle pulling up along our street outside our house was ‘him’ … and then this summer I put webcams around the house when we went away from a few weeks and only after the first week did I relax when I noticed that a brick hadn’t come through the window and we hadn’t been burgled or the house burned down.
(I write this while reflecting on the words of Professor Susan Halford in the Week 3 introductory video on cyber crime that forms part of the University of Southampton‘s Future Learn offering ‘Web Science‘).
‘The Web is part of society and is shaped by society. And until the web is a crime-free zone, the Web won’t be a crime-free zone’. (Halford, S 2013. Page 1 of the transcript. University of Southampton)
Webber, C. and Yip, M. (2012), ‘Drifting on and off-line: Humanising the cyber criminal’, in S. Winlow and R. Atkinson (Eds.), New Directions in Deviancy: Proceedings from the York Deviancy Conference, London: Routledge, pp. 191-205
We are each unique – our brains make us so. At the microlevel the network in our heads is then tickled out into the the Web in, at first. the simplest of ways. Our first post, our first comment is that first baby-step. Unlike our firsf steps though, online everything we do is saved, is monitored, is shared. It takes on a life of its own. Multiplied billions of times now many millions of us have learnt to crawl, then walk, then run online. As we are virtual we can split into many versions or parts of ourselves too – the professional and private the immediate split, but then into hobby groups and as here, a study group. The network of networks is a living thing that mathematics can help to weight and categorize, even to visualise, but crucially – the point made here, humanising the maths requires the insight of someone asking questions, seeking to interpret what it taking place. I see currents in a digital ocean that transpires into a cloud that then precipitates digital artefacts in a myriad of other places. Others, like Yrjo Engegstrom, see the growing tendrils of a funghi. Either way it is fascinating to condense, simplify and sharing the thinking.
Fig.1 pp 116-117 of Lawrence Lessig’s book ‘Remix’
Despite the rhetoric of the content industry, the most valuable contribution to our economy comes from connectivity, not content’. Lawrence Lessig (2008:89) CF Andrew Odlyzko ‘Content is not King’.
There’s some irony that I found I could only get my hands on a book on the generational shift towards the digitized-enabled world of remixing with a book.
What is the legal position of creating a remix, by way of example, marking the passing of Britain’s last First World War veteran, by putting online a video that combines photographs of the deceased, and clips lifted from the TV film about the struggle by Kipling to commission his short-sighted son into the army? Or, not even ‘remixing’ but simply putting a series of excerpts of the film Passchendeale online so that you can watch it for free? Or grabbing stills from archive film, colouring it in and claiming it is as from your own unique collection? Some of these ‘producers’ should be applauded and encouraged in the hope that they generate their own footage and learn how to do so on a shoestring, others need to have their content removed and where a blatant copyright infringment has occured they ought to be warned if not prosecuted.
How I read has changed, though my curiosity hasn’t dimmed, rather it has been indulged.
As an undergraduate I forewent lectures in a hall with 90+ fellow students and instead took myself to the library. I would order up the book the lecturer I felt was reading from, and while reading pick out further books and journals. At the time this meant putting in a request slip and waiting a couple of hours, even a couple of days and quite often moving to a different library entirely. I began this journey most mornings in the Map Room of the Bodliean Library on Broad Street, would find myself in the underground chambers of the Radcliffe Science Library and typically end the morning, or pick up in the afternoon with reading in an alcoved window of the Rhodes Library. These places were conducive to reading. The spaces between reading may have contributed to the retention of the information.
As I read Lawrence Lessig’s Remix I search for books that sound of interest on Amazon and may, with a One Click, have the book in eBook form on my Kindle Reader or iPad seconds later. If an paper or academic gets a mention I may check the full reference, go to the OU online library and search for it. More often than not I will then download the PDF … and ‘stack it’ in either iBooks or on the Kindle Reader. I’ll save the references to the paper to RefWorks and file this in an appropriately named folder – I could leave the papers online, but like to know they are there ready to browse. Far from following therefore a strict reading list from A to B, I tend to meander and indulge. It takes time. I may stumble. I may race off in comletely the wrong direction.
By the time I return to the track I will either be reading at a trot or dragging my feet.
I am currently jogging, though I sense thst it is towards an assault course.
Two and a half years ago I took part in JISC 2011 ‘at a distance’ – distance, cost and illness were all barriers to attending in person. I’m prompted to recall one of the afternoon conferences as Chris Pegler and Tony Hirst from the Open University were on the platform. As well as questions coming from the floor (some 200 attendees) questions also came from the online participants (some 350). A question I posed was picked out by the chair and discussed. For a dreadful moment I worried that I could be seen sitting in pyjammas and a dressing gown at the kitchen table. By March 2011 I was on my second Master of Arts in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) module. A month or so later I applied to and eventually joined the OU where I worked, living away from home, for a year. This year I graduated and have since also completed what I see as a conversion course ‘H809:Practise-based research in technology-based learning’ with a mind, belatedly in my lifetime, to undertake doctoral research. To ‘keep my hand in’ and to stay up to date I have joined a new MAODE module ‘H818:The networked practioner’. I am yet to feel fluent in the language and practice of e-learning so need this repeated immersion, modules that I did a couple of years ago are being updated and I want to prove to myself and potentially others that I can keep up the scholarly level of participation and assessment that I began to display on the last couple of modules.
The learning lessons here are simple: persistence, repetition and practice.
Ambitions to take me e-learning interests into healthcare were thwarted at my first interviews for doctoral research – I am not a doctor (medicine), nor have I conducted a clinical trial before … let alone the ambitions for my proposal that would require departmental participation and funding. Basically, I’d bitten off far too much.
With this in mind I am falling back on a subject on which I can claim some insight and expertise – the First World War. Knowing that expressing an interest, linking to a blog or unproduced TV scripts won’t open academic doors I’ve decided to take an MA in History … the subject I set out to study some decades ago before getting the collywobbles and transferring to Geography. So, alongside a 12-15 hour a week commitment to another OU module on e-learning I will, over the next two years, be spending as much time on an MA in British First World War studies with the University of Birmingham. The additional insight I will get from this is comparing abd contrasting a series of modules that rely on an intensive day every month of lectures and tutorials rather than the dense, minute by minute closely supported and networked virtual learning environment (VLE) of the Open University.
Meanwhile, as in March 2011, I am recovering from a stinking cold. Not totally incapacitated – I have read several books, nodding off between chapters and so plagued by dreams about the causes of war in 1914. Power politics and corporate takeovers where the soldier is the worker while the owners, investment bankers and hedge fund managers risk all for their own gain.
Get comfortable with the technology
Set up a blog if you don’t have one and use the Blog Aggregator with #H817open tag
There are badges in Cloudworks if you like this kind of thing
Think about the priorities.
This is how I start a post in my Open University Student blog which I have posted to most days since 6th February 2010. I put in bullet points and notes. I just get the thing started then add to it. My own private wiki. It isn’t a fixed thing. Months even years later I may add to it – there are no rules on blogging, no guidelines worth following. Anything goes today as it did in the 1990s.
Learning Objects: Resources for distance education worldwide
Shared education as courses
Traditionally through text books, wall maps and charts, videos and DVDs.
Save money, improve content.
Objects and object–orientated design
Hand rolled bread or a supermarket loaf? Are you a connoisseur or simply hungry?
Open scholar – shaped by digital and networked.
Positive feedback loop between openness and creativity.
Alongside more learning at uni, lifelong and flexible learning.
I may try to write a piece that is journalistic, or more like an academic paper, or just record an event, jot down an idea. Rough rather than smooth, where other can tread and find traction, if only to correct, add to or develop the thinking here and take it somewhere esle.
After a paper and a SlideShare and generally following the conversation asynchronously as it occurs I then do the first activity. I should originate a mind map or spider map, but having dwelt on this so often over the last few years in particular I find myself recreating the same kinds of things: the water cycle, Engestroms fungi as an ecosystem, swirling ink or Catherine-wheel like fireworks all in an effort to visualise what open learning looks like.
I use Picasa Web Albums and have some 135 folders.
Each folder tops out at 1000 images. I am onto e-learning II and have 1250 images across the two – this is my e-learning world as much as 1500+ blog posts here and perhaps 2000+ in my OU student blog. When I get a good scanner and Mac in a few weeks time I will digitize some thirty years of diaries and fiction writing too – and ‘stick it out there’ so that it can compost in cyberspace rather than a lock-up garage.
For now here are a set of images that I have used in the past to describe or illustrate e-learning and for the purposes of this activity ‘Open Learning’ as a subset, or overlapping beast of e-learning, contained by the universe of ‘Learning’.
This last one from Dion Hinchcliffe
- Openness in Education WK1 MOOC (mymindbursts.com)
- Martin Weller and the MOOCers (mymindbursts.com)
- Me, openness and education (egrommet.net)
- Olds Mooc Narratives (mymindbursts.com)
- Who Needs Harvard When There Is Always a MOOC? (clarissasblog.com)
- Lost in the clouds in an OLDS MOOC 2013 (mymindbursts.com)
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.
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.
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.
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).
- 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)
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. .
This may pre-empted the MOOC by a week but expresses three things in relation to team work
- top down hierarchical
- 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.
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
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.
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
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.
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..
- Supporting educators to rethink their learning design practice with the 7 Cs of Learning Design (mymindbursts.com)
- MOOCs: Why Do We Need Instructional Design? (cain.blogspot.com)
- Online Learning Ecosystems: What to Make of MOOC Dropout Rates? #cccmroe (derekbruff.org)
- Olds Mooc (mymindbursts.com)
Fig. 1. Hands by Escher.
The danger is for it to become one’s modus operandi, that the act of gathering is what you become. I recall many decades ago, possibly when I started to keep a diary when I was 13, a documentary – that can no doubt now be found on the Internet – on a number of diarists. There were not the well-known authors or celebrity politicians, but the obscure keeper of the heart beat, those who would toil for two hours a day writing about what they had done, which was to edit what they’d written about the day before … if this starts to look like a drawing by Escher then perhaps this illustrates how life-logging could get out of hand, that it turns you inside out, that it causes implosion rather than explosion. It may harm, as well as do good. We are too complex for this to be a panacea or a solution for everybody. A myriad of book, TV and Film expressions of memory, its total recall, false recall, falsehoods and precisions abound. I think of the Leeloo in The Fifth Element learning about Human Kind flicking through TV Channels.
Fig. 2. Leeloo learns from TV what the human race is doing to itself
Always the shortcut for an alien to get into our collective heads and history. Daryl Hannah does it in Splash too. Digitisation of our existence, in part or total, implies that such a record can be stored (it can) and retrieved in an objective and viable way (doubtful). Bell (2009) offers his own recollections, sci-fi shorts and novels, films too that of course push the extremes of outcomes for the purposes of storytelling rather than seeking more mundane truth about what digitization of our life story may do for us.
Fig. 3. Swim Longer, Faster
There are valid and valuable alternatives – we do it anyway when we make a gallery of family photos – that is the selective archiving of digital memory, the choices over what to store, where to put it, how to share then exploit this data. I’m not personally interested in the vital signs of Gordon Bell’s heart-attack prone body, but were I a young athlete, a competitive swimmer, such a record during training and out of the pool is of value both to me and my coach. I am interested in Gordon Bell’s ideas – the value added, not a pictorial record of the 12-20 events that can be marked during a typical waking day, images grabbed as a digital camera hung around his neck snaps ever 20-30 seconds, or more so, if it senses ‘change’ – gets up, moves to another room, talks to someone, browses the web … and I assume defecates, eats a meal and lets his eyes linger on … whatever takes his human fancy.
How do we record what the mind’s eye sees?
How do we capture ideas and thoughts? How do we even edit from a digital grab in front of our eyes and pick out what the mind is concentrating on? A simple click of a digital camera doesn’t do this, indeed it does the opposite – it obscure the moment through failing to pick out what matters. Add sound and you add noise that the mind, sensibly filters out. So a digital record isn’t even what is being remembered. I hesitate as I write – I hear two clocks. No, the kitchen clock and the clicking of the transformer powering the laptop. And the wind. And the distant rumble of the fridge. This is why I get up at 4.00am. Fewer distractions. I’ve been a sound engineer and directed short films. I understand how and why we have to filter out extraneous noises to control what we understand the mind of the protagonist is registering. If the life-logger is in a trance, hypnotized, day dreaming or simply distracted the record from the device they are wearing is worse than an irrelevance, it is actually a false cue, a false record.
Fig. 4. Part of the brain and the tiniest essence of what is needed to form a memory
Mind is the product of actions within a biological entity. To capture a memory you’d have to capture an electro-chemical instance
across hundreds of millions of synapses.
Fig. 5. Diving of Beadnell Harbour, 1949. My later mother in her teens.
An automatically harvested digital record must often camouflage what might have made the moment a memory. I smell old fish heads and I see the harbour at Beadnell where as a child fisherman brought in a handful of boats every early morning. What if I smell old fish as I take rubbish to recycle? Or by a bin down the road from a fish and chip shop. What do my eyes see, and what does my mind see?
I love the messiness of the human brain – did evolution see this coming?
In ‘Delete’ Mayer-Schönberger (2009. p. 1) suggests that forgetting, until recently was the norm, whereas today, courtesy of our digital existences, forgetting has become the exception. I think we still forget – we don’t try to remember phone numbers and addresses as we think we have them in our phone – until we wipe or lose the thing. In the past we’d write them down, even make the effort to remember the things. It is this need to ‘make an effort’ to construct a memory that I fear could be discombobulated. I’m disappointed though that Mayer-Schönberger stumbles for the false-conception ‘digital natives’ – this is the mistaken impression that there exists a generation that is more predisposed and able than any other when it comes to all things digital. Kids aren’t the only ones with times on their hands, or a passion for the new, or even the budget and will to be online. The empirical evidence shows that the concept of a digital native is unsound – there aren’t any. (Jones et al, 2010., Kennedy et al, 2009., Bennet and Maton, 2010., Ituma, 2011) The internet and digital possibilities have not created the perfect memory. (Mayer-Schönberger 2009. p. 3)
To start with how do we define ‘memory’ ?
A digital record is an artefact, it isn’t what is remembered at all. Indeed, the very nature of memory is that it is different every time you recall a fact or an event. It becomes nuanced, and coloured. It cannot help itself.
Fig. 6. Ink drops as ideas in a digital ocean
A memory like drops of ink in a pond touches different molecules every time you drip, drip, drip. When I hear a family story of what I did as a child, then see the film footage I create a false memory – I think I remember that I see, but the perspective might be from my adult father holding a camera, or my mother retelling the story through ‘rose tinted glasses’.
Fig. 7. Not the first attempt at a diary, that was when I was 11 ½ .
I kept a diary from March 1973 to 1992 or so. I learnt to write enough, a few bullet points in a five year diary in the first years – enough to recall other elements of that day. I don’t need the whole day. I could keep a record of what I read as I read so little – just text books and the odd novel. How might my mind treat my revisiting any of these texts? How well and quickly would it be recalled? Can this be measured? Do I want it cluttering the front of my brain?
Fig.1. For online learning to work you need scaffolding – Drawing by Simon Fieldhouse
Levels of interaction and support
- Drop out rates from 20-50% for online courses … more than for traditional courses.
A full breakdown of the figures, how prepared, representing which institutions and student groups would be helpful. Anyone can use a statistic if they don’t identify its source.
Really this bad?
But if they’ve paid their fees the college has its cash and can free up resources. Do the bean counters recognise the contribution those quitting to make a course viable, let alone profitable?
Educational Institutions should go to extraordinary lengths to attract and retain the right people to courses and to keep them on board and fully engaged.
A major issue is the degree of academic integration.
- Academic self-esteem
- Identity as a student
Against sticking with a course are :
- instructional ineffectiveness
- failing academic achievement
- negative attitudes
- overall dissatisfaction with the learning experience
Self-directed skill set:
- the ability to work alone
- time management
- learning independence
- a plan for completing
Self-directed learning skills … that are developed in a social context through a variety of human-oriented interactions with peers and colleagues, teams, informal social networks, and communities of practice.
‘These challenges to the retention of distance learners, interestingly enough, have something in common, they seem to hinge on learners’ need for significant support in the distance learning environment through interaction with others (e.g. peers, instructors, and learner support services personnel).’ Tait (2000)
The central functions of learner support services for students in distance education settings are:
Scaffolding – ZPD (Vygotsky, 1934)
Scaffolding involves providing learners with more structure during the early stages of a learning activity and gradually turning responsibility over to learners as they internalize and master the skills needed to engage in higher cognitive functioning. (Palinscar, 1986; Rosenshine and Meister, 1992).
Scaffolding has a number of important characteristics to consider when determining the types of learner support services distance students may need:
Academic course ‘scaffolding’:
- Provides structure
- Functions as a tool
- Extends the range of the learner
- Allows the learner to accomplish a task that would otherwise not be possible
- Helps to ensure the learner’s success
- Motivates the learner
- Reduces learner frustration
- Is used, when needed, to help the learner, and can be removed when the learner can take on more responsibility.
(Greenfield, 1984; McLoughlin and Mitchell, 2000; Wood et al., 1976)
‘Scaffolding is an inherently social process in which the interaction takes places in a collaborative context.’
In relation to learning with the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA)
- Are people coming onto the Level II course who are not yet suitable? Do they submit a learning orientation questionnaire?
- Is the candidate’s club or pool operator giving them ample assistant teaching opportunities and support?
Mentors utilise the items gathered during the admissions process – data from the intake interview, self-assessment, diagnostic pre-assessment, and Learning Orientation Questionnaire – to develop to Academic Action Plan, that provides a roadmap for the learner’s academic progress including information about learning resources and assessment dates.’ At WGU.
Learning is a function of the activity, context, and culture in which it occurs – i.e., it is situated (Wenger, 1998).
Successful completion of and satisfaction with an academic experience is directly related to students’ sense of belonging and connection to the program and courses (Tinto, 1975).
Social learning experiences, such as peer teaching, group projects, debates, discussion, and other activities that promote knowledge construction in a social context, allow learners to observe and subsequently emulate other students’ models of successful learning.’
‘A learning community can be defined as a group of people, connected via technology mediated communications, who actively engage one another in collaborative learner-centred activities to intentionally foster the creation of knowledge, while sharing a number of values and practices, including diversity, mutual appropriation, and progressive discourse.’
N.B. ‘Creating a positive psychological climate built upon trusting human relationships.’
Collins, A., Brown, J. S., & Newman, S. (1989). Cognitive apprenticeship: Teaching the craft of reading, writing, and mathematics. In L. Resnick (Ed.), Knowing, learning and instruction: Essays in honor of Robert Glaserm, 453-494.
Duguid, Paul (2005). “The Art of Knowing: Social and Tacit Dimensions of Knowledge and the Limits of the Community of Practice”. The Information Society (Taylor & Francis Inc.): 109–118.
Ludwig-Hardman & Dunlap. (2003) Learner Support Services for Online Students: Scaffolding for success in The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, Vol 4, 10, 1 (2003)
Palincsar, A.S. (1986). Reciprocal teaching. In Teaching reading as thinking. Oak Brook, IL: North Central Regional Educational Laboratory.
Rosenshine, B. & Meister, C. (1992) The use of scaffolds for teaching higher-level cognitive strategies. Educational leadership, 49(7), 26-33.
Tait, J (2004) The tutor/facilitator role in retention. Open Learning, Volume 19, Number 1, February 2004 , pp. 97-109(13)
Tinto, V (1975) Dropout from Higher Education: A Theoretical Synthesis of Recent Research. Review of
Educational Research Vol.45, No1, pp.89-125.
Vygotsky. L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of the higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: The Harvard University Press
Vygotsky, L. S. (1998a). Infancy (M. Hall, Trans.). In R. W. Rieber (Ed.), The collected works of L. S. Vygotsky: Vol. 5. Child psychology (pp. 207-241). New York: Plenum Press. (Original work written 1933-1934)
Wenger, Etienne (1998). Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-66363-2.
- Personal Learning Environments and the revolution of Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (downes.ca)
- RR: Mcleod, Week 8 (mathloverturnedwriter.wordpress.com)
- Myths, Truths and Futures of online learning (slideshare.net)
- Book of the Day: Peeragogy Handbook (p2pfoundation.net)
- How do you stop online students cheating? (bbc.co.uk)
- What Are the Advantages of Distance Learning? (tutoringtoexcellence.blogspot.com)