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Unscrambling the presumptions of research in e-learning educational practice
Activity Theory (AT) according to various authors …. , supposes a quest to solve a problem, an ‘activity theorist’ looking at certain kinds of research, understanding activity system as being driven by outcomes, would therefore annotated the six nodes of the AT pyramid with this in mind.
Fig. 1. Activity Theory (Engeström, 2008)
In contrast, considering the same subject of research, a sociologist would be inclined to look for power structures.
In turn how might a management consultant, or psychologist approach this? And in relation to H809 and the MAODE, how differently would someone educated in each of the following theories approach the same subject matter: behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism and connectedness?
The suggestion that the theory behind a piece of research or OER from H809 TMA02 predisposes a specific research response is like having an undefined medical problem. In turn each specialist offers a view based on the narrow perspective of their specialism.
By way of example, with sinus/earache like symptoms from which I have always ‘suffered’ I in turn visit a neurologist, immunologist and dentist. I discover from each in turn that I must be depressed/stressed, have an allergic response to something, need a tooth filled/crowned. In turns out that I have a pronounced response to house dust mite and due to physical damage to a channel in one part of the maxillary sinus it doesn’t drain so the slightest infection, a mild cold, will cause inflammation and pain. The response that works is primarily preventative with self-medication of prescription pain relief at a dosage that works – co-codomol and occasional antibiotics. (The above over a 33 year period of investigations that included several other excitable consultants who each in turn gleefully hoped that I might have a very rare condition X or Y that they would investigate).
Just as medical specialists are inclined to come at a situation with too narrow a perspective, so too can we when wishing to study, in a learning situation, what is going on … in there (the brains of each student) and externally, the context and situation of the ‘learning’ that they are doing (or having done to them).
Conole, G., and Oliver, M. (eds.) (2008) Contemporary perspective in e-learning research. Themes, Methods and Impacts on Practice.
Engestrom, Y (2008) From Teams to Knots
Mapping Pedagogy and Tools for Effective Learning Design
This is an activity in week 7 of Open University postgraduate module H809: Practice-bases research in e-learning which forms part of the Masters in Open & Distance Education. Shared here, as in my student blog, in order to invoke discussion. I’ve successfully completed the MAODE so this is something of a ‘bonus track’ (I graduate in April then look onwards). The activity is drawn from the Conole et al paper referenced below. Theories are catergorised and a model produced to help define the learning theories that can be identified.
Green = Activated
Amber = Engaged
Red = Blocked
What concerns me is the belief that theories of learning, which academics have identified in education in the last 90 years, are either key drivers or influencers in the design of learning.
Surely these are all observations after the event.
Like trying to analyse a stand-up comedy routine using a set of plans and parameters – ‘Good Morning, Vietnam‘ comes to mind. As, I suppose would ‘Dead Poets Society‘ to bring in Robin Williams again. Was the Khan Academy a product of such analysis? No? An investment banker wanted to help his nephews out with their Math so he recorded some videos. Actually, I just realised my wife is doing this for a friend’s daughter who is learning French – creating bespoke French language pieces for her to practice on. I can’t even think what either of them are – behaviourist or social-constructive and experiential. I’m afraid, given what the academic ‘gurus of e-learning’ keep coming up with they are probably the least intuitive or inventive because their hands and minds are tied by this kind of thing.
Just my forming and fluid opinion.
If I want to develop a platform or school that uses e-learning I’ll go find myself a ‘Robin Williams’ kind of educator – someone has a natural flair for it, who engender a following, who most importantly delivers extraordinary results.
Looking back at school I know that what motivated me was two fold – my own long term goal and the quality of an inspired and informed teacher who had tutoring, moderating and teaching in their blood.
There’s a reason why research and teaching don’t mix. I’ve asked some academics about this and they have told me that they haven’t gone into the commercial sector, nor do they teach … ‘because they hate people’.
Where in these theories is the person?
This relationship, the rapport that can form between tutor and student is what is lacking and it is why, in my opinion, the likes of the Oxbridge Tutorial, that one to one, or one to two or three hour long session once a week is far, far, far from dead.
Neuroscience is going to blow this allow out of the water.
Already the shift is very much in favour of genetics and the way our unique brains are formed as we develop as a foetus. It is nature, not nurture, so frankly, we can have anything thrown at us in terms of life experience and how we learn and how we respond will remain individual. This is the perspective of my father in law whose secondary education was the being in the Polish resistance during the Second World War, his first university a prisoner of war camp. He had England or the US as choices having decided not to return to Poland. And found himself learning English in Gateshead. The story continues … so what kind of learning was occurring in the POW camp?
He bartered lessons in German for lessons in English.
Social-situated in extremis.
Not that it can be injected into a class, and even less so in online learning, but ‘fear’ doesn’t half help turn a short term memory into one that will stick. Playing Devil’s Advocate, can ‘e-learning’ only ever be ‘cotton wool’ the safest, tamest learning you will ever receive? Try reading an essay out in a tutor group – there’s fear! Try getting up in a hall of 300 people to make your point in a debating chamber – terrifying.
An odd conclusion to reach at the end of this reflection on the exercise – but where is the ‘fear’?
And I mean the right kind of fear, not the threat of the cane or other such punishment, but the fear of letting you down, or your side down, or of humiliation … against the public reward if you get something right?
Pinned down in a collapsed cellar in Warsaw my father in law believed he would die. He was the only one alive. Everyone else had been flattened. By some chance he had been standing under a beam that had partially protected him. He made promises he’d keep if he lived. He was found. A smash to the head.
- Does learning have more impact when there is something at stake?
- Try introducing this element into an e-learning module.
- The impossible hypothesis – people learn better and make decisions with firmer convictions, where their life is at stake?
Then again we turn to neuroscience and will conclude that some will, some won’t, that the response of the individual to a shared experience means that you get as many different outcomes as there are people.
Institutions think that grades divide students – that’s only the tiniest fraction of what makes each person in that class different. If the student isn’t suitably self aware to know how to play to their strengths and managed their weaknesses then the observant tutor and others who are part of the institution should be doing this on their behalf – as parents, friends and siblings might do.
Even with medical intervention.
The ‘Flipped classroom‘ for me is finding ways to work with the individual who happens to be in a class that is probably already sorted by age and culture, if not also social class and gender.
And therefore already inappropriate.
Maybe the classroom has had its time. A short-lived interlude in human development over the last 70,000 years.
Conole, G, Dyke, M, Oliver, M, & Seale, J (2004), ‘Mapping Pedagogy and Tools for Effective Learning Design’, Computers And Education, 43, 1-2, pp. 17-33, ERIC, EBSCOhost, viewed 25 March 2013.
- Where do I stand academically? Where and what next? And the madness of being. (mymindbursts.com)
- Editors’ Choice: Decoding Digital Pedagogy, pt. 1 and pt. 2 (digitalhumanitiesnow.org)
- Reading – nothing quite beats it, does it? (mymindbursts.com)
- Decoding Digital Pedagogy, pt. 1: Beyond the LMS (hybridpedagogy.com)
- Digital Pedagogy and MOOCification (hastac.org)
Someone who correctly sensed what was coming in 2004 might be a person to ask what is due in 2013/1014
In this paper from Grainne Conole she says (writing in 2003, published 2004) that wireless, smart and wifi will have a huge impact … prescient. Can you remember how little of what we now take for granted was around in 2004? I was probably using a Psion and a bog-standard phone.
‘Technologies do have great potential to offer education, however this is a complex multifaceted area; we need rigorous research if we are going to unpick the hype and gain a genuine understanding of how technologies can be used effectively’. (Conole. p.2 2004)
‘Academics working in this area need to demonstrate that the research is methodologically rigorous, building appropriately on existing knowledge and theories from feeder disciplines and feeding into policy and practice’. (Conole, 2004)
- effective models for implementation
- mechanism for embedding the understanding gained from learning theory into design
- guidelines and good practice
- literacy needs of tutors and students
- the nature and development of online communities
- different forms of communications and collaboration
- the impact of gaming
- cultural differences in the use of online courses
‘much of the current research is criticised for being too anecdotal, lacking theoretical underpinning’ (Mitchell, 2000)
This is what you find in the press, newspapers and magazine always go for the anecdotal and sensationalist view of what technology may do. Has technology yet brought the world to an end? I guess the atomic bomb has always, legitimately, been more scary than other technologies although I dare so there are those who say Google will bring about the end of the world.
‘A more detailed critique of the methodological issues of e-learning research and its epistemological underpinnings are discussed elsewhere’. (Olive and Conle, 2004)
- A better understanding of the benefits and limitations of different methods.
- More triangulation of results.
What people are looking for:
- potential efficiency gains and cost effectiveness
- evidence-based practice with comparison of the benefits of new technologies over existing teaching and learning methods
- How technologies can be used to improve the student learning experience.
No surprises that in business use of e-learning is benchmarked with cost and outcomes closely followed – are we improving and saving at the same time? Typically travel and accommodation costs are saved where people don’t have to be away from work and learning times can be cut without loss of information retention on the compliance like stuff – health and safety, data protection, equity in the workplace and basic induction (or as American companies call it ‘on boarding’ which sounds to me like something you do with guests on a cruise liner – or is them embarking)
How do we capture experience in a way that we build it back into design and implementation. (Point 8 of 12 p.8 Conole 2004)
What are the inherent affordances of different technologies? (Conole. p. 8 2004)
‘Only time will tell’. (Conole. p. 17, 2004)
Or as I would say, ‘on verra’.
I am doing the classic ‘expand and contract’ of problem solving – the problem is finding an area of research I can believe in and sustain for four years. Though for H809 all I need is a title of a research paper. I still would prefer to be narrowing down the areas that interest me:
- virtual worlds
- spaced education (see memory)
- lifelogging / sensecam (see memory)
- Artificial Intelligence (learning companion … see memory?)
Whilst the research question ought to come first, I hope that Activity Theory will have a role to play too.
Conole, G (2004) E-learning the hype and the reality
Oliver, M. and Conole, G. (2004) Methodology and e-learning. ELRC research paper. No. 4
- The Gutenberg Galaxy – first thoughts, from the first pages (mymindbursts.com)
- Supporting educators to rethink their learning design practice with the 7 Cs of Learning Design (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)
Digital Scholarships Considered: How New Technologies Could Transform Academic Work.
From, Pearce, Weller, Scanlon, Kinsley
Boyer’s dimensions of scholarship:
|Discovery – research||The creations of new knowledge in a specific area or discipline. Breakthroughs and innovations.||Research Excellence Framework (REF)|
|Integration – synthesis||Creating knowledge across disciplines. Wider context||Research Excellence Framework (REF)|
|Application -practice||Use in the wider world based on the scholar’s disciplinary knowledge and background (Pearce et al )|
||Where the biggest impact of digital technologies and open approaches.|
(Boyer, 1990, p. xi)
The internet lies at the core of an advanced scholarly information infrastructure to facilitate distributed, data and information-intensive collaborative research. (Borgman, 2007, xvii)
There have been extravagant claims about transformational potential of computers for almost as long as there have been computers. Pearce et al (2006). (CF. Shields, 1995)
Openness and transparency are significant drivers of change in education.
Getting the word out:
Problems with journals:
- long lag times
- increasing subscription costs
- resentment by the volunteers
- limitations of paper publishing replicated in digital formats (word limits, dynamic content, links)
Digital scholarship is more than just using information and communications technologies to research, teach and collaborate, but it is embracing the open values, ideology and potential of technologies born of peer-to-peer networking and wiki ways of working in order to benefit both the academy and society. Pearce et al (2006)
Borgman, C.L. (2007) Scholarship in the digital age: Information, infrastructure, and the Internet. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Boyer, E.L. (1990) Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. Princeton. N.J. Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Conole, G. (2004). E-learning: the hype and the reality. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 12
Pearce,N., Weller,M., Scanlon,E., and Kinsley,s (2006) Digital Scholarships Considered: How New Technologies Could Transform Academic Work. In Education. Issue 16 (1)
Shields, M.A. (ed) (1995) Work and Technology in Higher Education: The social construction of academic computing.
Siemens, G. (2009). Open isn’t so open anymore. Connectivism. Retrieved from http://www.connectivism.ca/?p=198
Blogging breached the guidelines a bunch of us followed in 2002 – now anything comes and goes on e-folded origami paper we call a blog
Fig. 1 Blogging brings like minds together – through their fingertips
I did a search in my own blog knowing that somewhere I cited an academic who described blogging as ‘whatever you can do on electronic paper’.
Chatting about this at dinner my 14 year old son trumped my conversation with his mother as I tried to define a blog and what can go into one with one word ‘anything’.
For me there has been a slow shift from text (the weblog-cum-dairy journal thingey), to adding pictures (which have become photo / image galleries, photostreams of Flickr and concept boards of Pinterest), to adding video … to adding ‘anything’ – apps, interactivity, grabs, mashups, music …
My starting place is here.
This ‘eportofolio, writers journal, aggregating, dumping ground, place for reflection and course work’.
You see, is it a blog at all? This platform, I’m glad, has its design roots in a Bulletin board.
The limitations of our OU Student Blog platform works in its favour.
I can only put in two search terms. In Google I might write a sentence and get a million links, in my wordpress blog it might offer have the contents.
Less is more.
Here I search ‘blog paper’ and get 112 posts that contain both words.
I’ll spin through these an add a unique tag. My starting place.
But to study blogging would be like researching the flotsam and jetsam that floats across our oceans – after a tsunami.
Starting with a book published in 2006 ‘Use of Blogs’ I want to read a paper ‘Bloggers vs. Journalists’ published in 2005. A search finds richer, more up to date content. Do I even bother with this first paper? (ironic that we even call them papers).
I can’t read everything so how do I select?
- Toggle through the abstract, check out the authors, see where else such and such a paper has been cited.
- Use RefWorks rather than my habit to date of downloading papers that MIGHT be of interest.
Whilst storage space is so inexpensive it is virtually free there is no need to clutter my hard drive, Dropbox or Google Docs space.
Which makes me think of one of my other favourite metaphors – kicking autumn leaves into the breeze. That or drowning in info overload, or as the Robert de Nero character in Brazil, Archibald ‘Harry’ Tuttle, who vanishes in a pile of discarded paper … my mind wanders. We do. It does.
I stumble in the OU Library as I find I am offered everything under the sun. I am used to being offered academic papers only. So far all I’m getting are scanned images of articles in newspapers on blogging. All feels very inside out.
Where’s the ‘turn off the printed stuff’ button?
I fear that just as I have never desired to be a journalist, preferring the free form of your own diary, letters, and of course blogging and forums online, I will struggle to write within the parameters of an academic paper. I’m managing assignment here, so I guess I’m learning to split the two. A useful lesson to have learnt.
Is this a research methodology?
I am looking at a book on blogging, ‘Use of Blogs’ (Bruns & Jacobs, 2006). I have it open on p.31 Notes (i.e. references) for the chapter Journalists and News Bloggers.
As I pick through these articles, papers and reviews written between 2002 and 2005 I find several of the authors, a decade on, are big names in the Journalism/Blogger debate. It’s as if I am looking at a tray of seedlings.
It strikes me as easier to start in 2006 with 27 starting points when the field of debate was narrow, rather than coming in from 2013 and finding myself parachuting into a mature Amazonian jungle of mixed up printed and digital, journalism and blog content.
Courtesy of the OU Library and RefWorks I have nailed this article after a decade of searching:
Druckerman, P (1999) Ellen Levy Has Got The Write Project For the Internet Age — It’s a Year of Scribbling Down Almost Everything; Ah, Yes, It Was a Raisin Bagel, New York, N.Y., United States, New York, N.Y.
Reading this around 23rd /24th September 1999 prompted me to start blogging
Then I’d been reading blogs for a few months but had a mental block with uploading HTML files and then along came the first ‘ready made’ DIY blogging platforms.
The last 12 years makes amusing reading – particularly the battle between journalists and bloggers. And who has won? Is there a difference anymore? Journalists blog and bloggers are journalists and entire newspapers are more blog-like from The Huffington Post to the FT … which within three years will close all its print operations.
To be used in learning and to be a genre to study blogging needs to be part of formative assessment
A blog therefore becomes ‘an active demonstration of learning’ with cumulative feedback. I’ve only received ONE Tutor comment in my OU blog and that was to say why was I blogging and not getting on with my TMA. This person had their head so stuffed inside primary school education of the 1960s it made me feel like tossing my cap in the air.
Why MAODE students blog (Kerawella et al, 2009) depends on their perceptions of, and for:
- an audience
- the utility of and need for comments
- presentational style of the blog content
- overarching factors related to the technological context
- the pedagogical context of the course
‘Bloggers vs. journalist: The next 100 year War?’ 2011, Public Relations Tactics, 18, 4, p. 17, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 18 February 2013.
Bruns, A. Jacobs, J. (2006) Use of Blogs.
Kerawalla, L, Minocha, S, Kirkup, G, & Conole, G (2009) ‘An empirically grounded framework to guide blogging in higher education’, Journal Of Computer Assisted Learning, 25, 1, pp. 31-42, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 18 February 2013.
Rosen, J. (2007) ‘Web Users Open the Gates’, Washington Post, The, n.d., UK & Ireland Reference Centre, EBSCOhost, viewed 18 February 2013.
- Driving learning through blogging: Students’ perceptions of a reading journal blog assessment task. (mymindbursts.com)
- The Ultimate Guide to Advanced Guest Blogging (seomoz.org)
- NaBloPoMo Soup: Add Your January Posts (blogher.com)
- The Neverending Debate: Who is a Blogger? (zemanta.com)
- blogging, or look out February, DaBloPoMo is coming! (espressococo.wordpress.com)