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All you need to know about blogging that you can’t be bothered to research for yourself because you’re too busy blogging …

Fig. 1. Passion at work: Blogging practices of knowledge workers (2009)
by Lilia Efimova
Doctoral thesis published by Novay.

I’ve come to this thesis for a number of reasons:

I’ve been blogging since September 1999, sometimes obsessively so, such as the couple of Blogathons I instigated in 2002 and 2004 where participants had to post 1000 words every hour on the hour for 24 hours – words were meant to be written during the previous 60 minutes. Three of us made it to the end.

I’ve posted regularly since 1999, with several years never missing a day – that’s the diary writer in me. We created ‘circles’ in Diaryland a decade before Google used the term for those with 100, then 500, then 1000 posts.

I know of one blogger from that era who is still there, plugging away ‘Invisibledon’. 

I’ve written on a theme, typically creative writing, parenting, swim coaching and e-learning.

And added to this typed up entries from diaries. There are some 2 million words ‘out there’.

My credentials therefore are as a participant, as a player.

Perhaps I am too close to the hubbub to see what is going on?

I blog as a means:

  • To learn
  • To collate
  • To share
  • To test and practice my knowledge (or lack of … )

Fig. 2 It helps that I’ve kept a diary since I was 13. Blogging since 1999. On WordPress since 2007.

I’m used to gathering my thoughts at the end of the day or logging them as I go along. And learnt that a few succinct sentences is often enough to bring back the day. My first blog was NOT assembled in ‘reverse chronological order’ – I posted to a set of 32 themes. It works better that way.

  • One diary covers my gap year working in the Alps.
  • Another diary covers a few weeks of an exchange trip to France.
  • A third covers a year with the School of Communications Arts.

I personally value blogging to form a  writer’s journal and as a student’s journal, particularly over the last three years during which time I have successfully completed the Open University’s Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE).

  • I read everything I can on blogging. 
  • I’ve just read this engaging PhD thesis by Lilia Efimova. 
  • She is Russian, works in the Netherlands and writes perfect English.

Her supervisors were:

Robert-Jan Simons
Robert de Hoog

My interest is twofold – blogging and methodology, as I am doing a postgraduate module on research (H809 : Practice-based research in educational technology)

The methods used (Efimova, 2008. p. 1):

  • Use of unconventional research methods
  • Cross boundaries
  • Define and defend choices

Blogging can support a variety of knowledge worked activities to:

  • articulate and organise thoughts
  • make contact with people interested in the same topics (like minds)
  • grow relations with other bloggers
  • work on a publication

Caveats

  • personal
  • crossing boundaries passions and paid work, private and public.

I read ‘Uses of Blogs’ for the second time. Edited by Dr Axel Bruns and Joanna Jacobs. I had a OU Library copy so bought another through Amazon. A book on blogging that only exists in print. I far prefer eBooks. I’ve posted on that elsewhere. (Versatility, notes and highlights in one place, search and having as Lt. Col Sean Brady described it a  ‘university in my pocket’).

My take on blogging – who does it, is based on Jakob Nielsen’s 2001.

I can’t find figures that suggest that this has changed in the general population, though research with undergraduates might give a split of 5/35/60. The problem is, what do you define as a blog? And can your really say that someone who posts once a year, or once a quarter is blogging at all?

Fig. 3 For everyone 1 person who blogs, some 90 don’t and the other 9 are half-hearted about it. (based on stats from Nielsen, 2006).

According to Nielsen (2006) most online communities show a ratio of creation, commenting and simply reading of 1% – 9% – 90%. With blogs, the rule is more like 95% – 5% – 0.1%.

Introduction

I agree with Efimova that we learn from the edge. We come into everything as an outsider.  She cites ‘legitimate peripheral participation (Lave & Wenger, 1991) and moving from being an outside in a specific knowledge community to a more active position. I would John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid. (2007)  Awareness, as a starting point of this process, comes through exposure to the ideas of others and lurking at the periphery (observing without active participation), learning about professional language and social norms. Efimova cites (Nonnecke & Preece, 2003). I would add Cox (1999).

As the thesis more reason to blog, or reason not to are offered. Efimova also commits to looking at blogging in the workplace, amongst Knowledge Workers. Efimova (x.p )  In 2000 we used the term ‘infomediaries’  people who dealt in information and knowledge on behalf of others.

Worker use of blogs to

  • develop ideas and relationships
  • inspire conversations
  • work on specific tasks

Early adopters experimenting with the medium. Here I think a full consideration of the diffusion of innovations (Rogers, 2005) would be beneficial too. Efimova offers some ideas from Gartner, though without offering the self-explanatory chart that I offer below.

Fig. 4 . Gartner mid-2005 projection (Fenn & Linden, 2005)

I know of all three company types. Whilst a very few at A can be hugely successful, the safest approach is to come in at C – as Virgin do, time and time again, letting others make mistakes. On the other hand, for example in e-learning, if you aren’t willing to behave like a Type A you may find your clients start speaking to companies down the road. Ditto advertising and social media.

Efimova talks of the  ‘peak of inflated expectations’ and the ‘trough of disillusionment’.

Fig. 5 Evaluation criteria for this research

This is where I need to put in a good deal more scrutiny. Whilst I don’t question the validity of the approach, I do wonder if a more ‘scientific’ approach would have produced something more revealing that observation of 34 work related blogs – which is how this thesis plays out. We wander into the questionable arena of informal interviewing and participant observation as central way to generate ‘ethnographic data’.  This smacks of anthropology to me. Of social anthropology. But perhaps such qualitative techniques are as valid, and may be the only way to study subject if you are going to take the challenge of researching it at all.

The best answer I have read and give myself now when asked, ‘what is a blog?’ is to say ‘electronic paper’. That is how broad it has become, in 2001-2002 a handful of us in Diaryland set out and shared our standards:

  • A minimum of 250 words
  • Post every day for a least a year.
  • Fact not fiction (unless expressed as otherwise)


At the time it was rare to post images and you wouldn’t and couldn’t include video. Today a blog might be a stream of images or streamed video. It can be multiple users too, posting on the hour for a year in a team of six if they wish, which can be the way Andrew Sullivan (2013) posts to ‘The Daily Dish’ which gets a million views a month.

Efimova uses a technique called ‘triangulation’ to help validate her research – this is the use of multiple sources and modes of evidence to make findings stronger, by showing and agreement of independent measures, or by exploring and explaining findings (Miles & Huberman, 1994; Schwartz-Shea, 2006).

i.e. Triangulation by study – studying blogging practices from three perspectives using a variety of methods.

She also used ‘data triangulation’ – including in the analysis different types of data ( e.g. text and statistics), data sources and data collection methods. So including non-elicited data (Pargman, 2000) from public sources (e.g. weblog text) as well as recorded interviews.

I can’t fault Efimova (2008) introduction to Blogging

‘Since their early days, weblogs have been conceptualised as personal thinking spaces: as an outboard brain (Doctorow, 2002), a personal filing cabinet (Pollard, 2003a) or a research notebook (Halvais, 2006). In fact, the first academic publication on blogging (Mortensen & Walker, 2002) discusses uses of blogging in a research context, particularly in relation to developing ideas, and the weblog of its first author, Torrill Motensen, has a telling title: “Thinking with my fingers”.  I soon discovered that a weblog worked well that way, but also that this “thinking in public” provided an opportunity to show how ideas, my own and those of other bloggers, develop over time.

Pacquet 2002 discussed the use of blogging in research.

Fig. 6 Number of weblog posts per month

Blog analytics are mystifying. We count the undefined.

What is a blog?

What is a blog post?

A group of us asked these questions in 2000 then got on with it. We had our guidelines to post at least 1000 words every day, with no post less than 250 words. We did this as others flooded online and in the race to have 100 or 500 posts would put up a random string of letters and post every few minutes. As it become feasible and easy to post images was a picture worth a thousand words?

Was it still a ‘blog’ in our sense of the definition if it had no explanation behind it. And in my case, by storing by category not date in defiance of conventions could what I do still be called blogging?

And if used to archive diary entries was I now an archivist?

Looking at the fall-off in posts in Efimova’s blog I also see that when things get more interesting, when there is more to say – we post less. From an earlier generation I stopped keeping a diary when my fiance and I moved in together.

Had I found what I was looking for?

Around this time, 1998, Ellen Levy featured in the Washing Post for keeping a ‘blog’ (not called this) for a year – writing up business meetings and how attended, even adding photos. She struggled to post when she was ill. Over time knowing when we fall ill can start to explain why. And if, as we can now do, our daily life is captured automatically, is that a blog? To what degree must the blogger select, frame, write and edit what they have to say rather than a device, like your own CCTV camera hanging around your neck does it for you?

Fig. 7 Using a Weblog to store information  (Efimova 2008. p. 58)

To understand the mind of the blogger should we look at the reasons why people in the past have kept a diary? Or is keeping such a record, a journal simply one strand to something that has become extraordinarily multifarious? The 17th century diaries of Lady Anne Clifford and Samuel Pepys, the 20th century diaries of Anne Frank, Virginia Woolf and Anais Nin, the audio-cassettes of British MP Tony Benn …

Surely to say you want to study blogging in 2013 is akin to saying you want to study printed matter in the 17th century. That the field is too diverse. In a way we have gone from the mechanical era of print, to the organic era of the blog. Even to study one facet of blogging, such as the business or corporate blog,  would be like studying the ecology of a meadow in order to understand the interplay between different plants and creatures.

Efimova speaks of ‘sense-making’ (2009. p. 70)

‘As with writing, blogging is not simply formulating in words an idea already developed in one’s mind. It is also about connecting, developing and redefining half-baked ideas. When writing, I often go through the weblog archives to explore connections with what is already there. Reading and rereading what I wrote before shapes and changes what I’m about to write: I often find something unexpected or see patterns only in retrospect’.

And others some reason to blog … and just one reasons not to.

  1. Somewhere to “park” emerging insights until the moment they are needed. Efimova (2009. p 75)
  2. Doesn’t require much effort
  3. Somewhere to park ideas
  4. Reading and engaging with others to become aware of issues and themes
  5. Topics accumulate and connections grew and things become clearer.
  6. A set of sense-making practices
  7. “Everyday grounded theory” Efimova (2009. p. 75)
  8. Connecting multiple fragments
  9. Getting into the writing flow
  10. Strengthened by readers’ feedback
  11. A channel for distribution
  12. Publication additional motivation to document emergent ideas
  13. A legitimate place to share thinking in progress
  14. -ve when the need is to be extremely selective and focused. Efimova (2009. p. 80)
  15. To collect in one place the fragmented bits relevant to my thinking Efimova (2009. 3.5.4)
  16. Clusters of conversations
  17. Conversations unfolding
  18. A personal space and a community space simultaneously.
  19. A personal narrative used to articulate and to organise one’s own thinking. (conversation with self. p 90?) around 4.3
  20. An example of hypertext conversation. Efimova (2009. p. 129)
  21. Weblogs provide a space that helps both to develop one’s own point of view and discuss it with others.
  22. Bloggers present their ideas to the world, readers learn from them. Efimova (2009. p. getting things done. staying in touch)

This would make a good topic for debate.

And if I post multiple entries on my personal life is this content less of a blog when it is locked, then when made available publicly or in a limited way by password?

Eight functions of corporate blogs are offered (Zerfab, 2005, Juch & Stobbe, 2005)

  1. Public Relations
  2. Internal Communications (knowledge transfer and contract negotiation)
  3. Market communications:
  4. Product blogs
  5. Service blogs
  6. Customer relationship blogs
  7. Crisis blogs
  8. CEO blogs


Fig.  9 Conversations with self. Efimova (2009)

To mean something plotting ‘conversations’ requires annotation and even animation for it to start to make sense.

It is also very difficult, even unrealistic, to isolate activity on a website from other forms of synchronous and asynchronous ‘conversation’ – the dialogue in a forum, through email, even on the phone or Skype. This is why as a metaphor I return to the notion of an ocean, in which all these digital assets, this ‘stuff’ is floating around, mixed up by the currents of search engines, micro-blogs and social networks, churned by new Apps, software and kit and made dynamic as it is remixed, shared and transformed through translation, borrowing, plagiarism or mash-ups.

In this way an ocean of content is thrown into the cloud, circulated and recycled like a virtual water-cycle.

Others will see it differently, many talk of an ecosystem, of something organic going on. Would a zoologist or ecologist make more sense of it? Or a biologist, mechanical engineer or psychologist? Some of these questions, and this eclectic mix of folk have been gathering at the University of Southampton for the last three years under the umbrella title of WebSciences – a cross-disciplinary faculty that works with computer scientists and educators, with the health sector and social sciences, with the creative industries, geographers and historians. It’s as if a mirror has been held up to our off-line world and by translation, as Alice through the Looking Glass, transformed the real and explicable into the surreal and the unexplainable.

The history of blogging at Microsoft, Groundup from 2000 to 7000 internal and external by 2005. What it brought and what was hoped for:

  • Humanizing the company.
  • Visibility to its author (Efimova 2008. p. 187)
  • Recognition as an expert
  • Communicating about product
  • Reader expectations and visibility-related risks shape the content. Efimova 2008. p. 191)

‘Employee blogging creates tensions by crossing boundaries between work that is paid for, regulated and controlled, and personal passions that enhance it, passions that could be recognised and appreciated at work, but couldn’t be easily specified in a job description.’ Efimova 2009. p. 199)

For 11 months I worked in a business school in social media.

My efforts to support those who didn’t blog to do so, or to encourage those who said they blogged to post something more often than once a quarter or a couple of times a year failed. If they had wanted to be journalists or politicians and got up on a soapbox they would have done so in their youth. They saw no individual value or purpose to it so wouldn’t. As academics they have readers and their pattern of research and writing is long set. Some do, some don’t. Some will, some won’t. And it would appear that those inclined to share their point of view online are just a fraction of the online population, and just a fraction of that population who read blogs – i.e. 1% (Nielsen, 2006)

‘On the downside, blogging requires an investment of time and effort that could be a burden. Although potentially useful, work-related information in employee weblogs is highly fragmented and difficult to navigate. Although the visibility of bloggers, their work and expertise, can have many positive effects, it may also result in undesired communications overhead, time spent dealing with high reader expectations or with taking care of negative effects.’ Efimova, 2009. p. 200)

  • Lack of control of the company’s message
  • Dependence on personalities
  • Challenged hierarchies and communication flows

Efimova (2009. p. 201)

  • To illicit passion for knowledge (Kaiser et al., 2007)
  • Change the image of the company in the eyes of others (Kelleher & Miller, 2006)

It’s easy to blog, so more should do it.

  • low-threshold creation of entries
  • a flexible and personally meaningful way to organise and maintain them
  • opportunities to retrieve, reuse and analyse blog content
  • opportunities to engage with others.
  • fitted in while working on something else
  • providing a way to keep abreast of others ideas
  • capturing ones’ own emergent insights
  • clarifying matters for a public
  • over time ideas on a topic accumulate and connections between them become clearer.
  • feedback from readers turns blogging into a sense-making practice
  • eventually an ideas is ‘ripe’ and ready to become part of a specific task.

Efimova (2009. p. 208)

The reality, if Nielsen (2006) has got it right, is that only a tiny fraction of any population want to go to the trouble or has the inclination to post something. Better that those with something to say and a voice to say it do so that everyone is obliged to express themselves online. I liken it to cooking on holiday. I disagree with obliging everyone to cook on a rota, for some it isn’t a chore, it’s a joy and if they do it well encourage them. With the proviso that others make their contribution in other ways – laying on the entertainment, doing the drinks … it’s what makes us human?

Conditions for a weblog ecosystem Efimova (2009. p. 232):

  • Scale and reach
  • Readership
  • Visibility
  • Feedback
  • Lowering thresholds – a tool for everyday tasks
  • Making it accessible
  • Crossing boundaries

Ecosystem suggests that blogs exist in something organic – they do, the Web is fluid, shifting and expanding. What value would there be in studying blogs in a way that is somehow ‘scientific’ as if blogging were a natural, evolving feature? Like trees in a jungle?

What other metaphors might contribute to such understanding and how, if at all, can they be justified in research?

Could I look at the Web as a water cycle, as oceans with clouds, as currents and climate? Or is this shoe-horning systems we understand in part to explain one that we do not? Is it presuming too much to look for a natural rather than a machine model for the Web and where blogs fit in?

FURTHER LINKS

Plant CPSquare : communities of practice in the blogosphere.

REFERENCE

Bruns, A. (2006). What’s next for blogging? In A. Bruns, A & J.Jacobs, J (eds) Uses of Blogs (pp. 247-254). New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Brown, J, & Duguid, P 1991, ‘Organizational Learning and Communities-of-Practice: Toward a Unified View of Working, Learning, and Innovation’, Organization Science, 1, p. 40, JSTOR Arts & Sciences IV, EBSCOhost, viewed 15 February 2013.

Cox, R, McKendree, J, Tobin, R, Lee, J, & Mayes, T n.d., (1999) ‘Vicarious learning from dialogue and discourse – A controlled comparison’,Instructional Science, 27, 6, pp. 431-458, Social Sciences Citation Index, EBSCOhost, viewed 15 February 2013.

Efimova, L. (2009) Passion at work: blogging practices of knowledge workers. Novay PhD
Research Series 2009 (www.novay.nl.dissertations)

Halvais (2006) Scholarly Blogging. Moving towards the visible college. In A. Bruns, A & J.Jacobs, J (eds) Uses of Blogs (pp. 117-126). New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Kaiser, S, Muller-Seitz, G, Lopes, M, & Cunha, M n.d., ‘Weblog-technology as a trigger to elicit passion for knowledge’, Organization, 14, 3, pp. 391-412, Social Sciences Citation Index, EBSCOhost, viewed 15 February 2013.

Kelleher, T, & Miller, B 2006, ‘Organizational Blogs and the Human Voice: Relational Strategies and Relational Outcomes’, Journal Of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11, 2, pp. 395-414, Communication & Mass Media Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 15 February 2013.

Lave, J. & Wenger, E (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Miles, M.B. & Huberman, M.A.  (1994) Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.

Mortensen, T & Walker, J. (2002). Blogging thoughts: personal publication as an online research tool. In A. Morrison (ed.)., Researching ICTs in Context. InterMedia report 3/2002 (pp. 249-278). Oslo.

Nielsen. J. (2006) Participation Inequality: Encouraging More Users to Contribute. (Accessed 16 February 2013 http://www.nngroup.com/articles/participation-inequality/ )

Nonnecke, B. & Preece, J. (2003). Silent participants: Getting to know lurkers better. In C.Lueg & D. Fisher (Eds.), From Usenet to CoWebs: Interacting with Social Information Spaces. Springer Verlag.

Pargman, D. (2000). Method and ethics. In Code beges community: On social and technical aspects of managing a virtual community. Department of Communications Studies, The Tema Institute, Linkoping University, Sweden.

Pollard, (2003) Blogging in Business – The Weblog as filing cabinet. How to save the world, 3 Mart 2003.

Seely-Brown, J.S and Duguid, P. (1991) ‘Organizational learning and communities-of-practice: toward a unified view of working, learning and innovation’, Organizational Science, 2 (1): 40-57

Brown, J.S.  (2007) October 2007 webcast: (accessed 16 Feb 2013 http://stadium.open.ac.uk/stadia/preview.php?whichevent=1063&s=31 )

Schwartz-Shea, P. (2006). Judging quality. Evaluative criteria and epistemic communities. In D. Yanow & P. Schwartz-Shea (Eds.), Interpretation and Method: Empirical Research Methods and the Interpretive Turn (pp. 89-113). M.E. Sharpe.

Sullivan, A (2013) The Daily Dish (accessed 16 February 2013 http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2013/jan/03/daily-beast-andrew-sullivan-daily-dish )

von Hippel, E. (1986). Lead users: A source of novel product concepts. Management Science, 32 (791), 805.

Weller, M (2011) The Digital Scholar : How technology is transforming scholarly practice.

Zerfaβ, A 2005, ‘Assembling a Localization Kit’, Multilingual Computing & Technology, 16, 7, pp. 60-11, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 16 February 2013.

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Reflection on keeping an e-learning blog for 1,000 days

Fig. 1. The Open University’s Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE).

Expressed as a Wordle. A personal collection of key influencers based on those tagged in this blog. Includes my own reading and indulgences.

On Friday, at midday, my ou student blog reached a significant milestone.

I’ve been at it for 33 months. I’ve blogged the best part of FIVE modules now – most of which required or invited some use of the blog platform (or another). It required little encouragement – I used to keep a diary and have found since 1999 that in their digital form they are an extraordinarily versatile way to gather, consider, share and develop ideas.

Modules 

  • H807 – Innovations in e-Learning
  • H808 – Technology Enhanced Learning: Practices and debate
  • H800 – The e-Learning Professional
  • B822 – Creativity, Innovation & Change
  • H810 – Accessibility online learning: supporting disabled students

The investment in time, on average, an hour a day in addition to – though sometimes instead of coursework over 1000+ days.

(This excludes 8 months I spent on the Masters in Open and Distance Learning in 2001)

To mark this event, and as I need to go through this online diary, this e-journal, this ‘web-log’ (as they were also once momentarily called) ahead of some exciting meetings coming up next week I thought a simple task might be to click through the tags to identify who have been the key influencers in my reading and thinking over the last two and a half years.

Fig.2. Another way of looking at it. Betham, Conole and Weller are key MOADE authors from the Open University. John Seely Brown is a vital undercurrent, Engestrom one of several enthusiasms like Vygostky. While Gagne, second hand hardback, needs to be on your desk for frequent reference.

What I thought would take an hour has taken nearly 40 hours.

Clicking on a tag opens a corner of my head, the notes take me back to that day, that week, that assignment or task. It also takes me back to the discussions, resources and papers. And when I find an error the proof-reader in me has to fix. Aptly, as we approach November 5th, and living in Lewes where there are marches and fireworks from late October for a couple of weeks peaking of course all evening on the 5th, my head feels as if someone has accidentally set light to a box of assorted fireworks.

Just as well. Meetings these days are like a viva voce with eager ears and probing questions – they want the content of my mind and whatever else I bring to the subject after thirty years in corporate training and communications.

Fig. 3. Wordle allows you to say how many words you want to include in the mix. To create weight I had to repeat the names I consider most important twice, three or four times in the list. I also removed first names as these would scattered into the mix independently like peppercorns in a pan of vegetable stock.

The Task

  • List all authors who have been part of my learning and thinking over the last couple of years.
  • Include authors that my antennae have picked up that are relevant to my interest in learning, design, the moving image and the english language.
  • Visualise this and draw some conclusions

Fig.4. This even makes the key protagonists look like an advertising agency Gagne, BeethamConole and Weller.

The Outcome

I can never finish. Take this morning. I stumble upon my notes on three case studies on the use of e-portfolios from H807 which I covered from February 2010-September 2010. To begin with I feel compelled to correct the referencing in order to understand the value, pertinence and good manners (let alone the legal duty) to cite things correctly. (Even though this post was locked – a ‘private’ dump of grabs and my thoughts).

Then I add an image or two.

These days I feel a post requires a visual expression of its contents to open and benefits from whatever other diagrams, charts or images you can conjure from your mind or a Google Search – ‘the word’ + images creative commons – is how I play it.

Fig. 5. From David Oglivy’s book ‘Ogilvy on advertising’ – a simple suggestion – a striking image, a pertinent headline and always caption the picture. Then write your body copy.

A background in advertising has something to do with this and the influence of David Ogilvy.

I spend over two hours on the first of three case studies in just one single post. At the time I rubbished e-portfolios. The notes and references are there. Tapped back in I can now make something of it. A second time round the terms, the ideas – even some of the authors are familiar. It makes for an easier and relevant read. What is more, it is current and pertinent. A blog can be a portfolio – indeed this is what I’d recommend.

From time to time I will have to emerge from this tramp through the jungle of my MAODE mind.

Not least to work, to sleep, to cook and play.

Fig. 6. In a word

Along the way this behaviour, these actions, me being me, has found me working at the Open University for a year, and then at Lumesse a global corporate e-learning company. In the last month two international organisations have had me in, in the last week four more have been in touch online including interest from Australia, France and North America. Next week a magical triad may occur when I broker a collaboration between two of them with me holding their respective hands to initiate a project. There could be no better validation for the quality, depth, impact and life-changing consequences of seeing this OU degree through.

On verra (we will see)

USEFUL LINKS

Wordle

Date duration calculator

REFERENCE

Gagne, R.N. (1965) Conditions of Learning : Holt, Rinehart and Winston

What do you deliver? Guided, Self-Guided or Misguided Learning?

Learning vocariously and gregariously online – does it work? Why shouldn’t it?

From My Mind Bursts

The Open University constanly ameliorates its vital student and tutor forums – I even remember them as a bulletin board called ListServ in 2001. Several kinds of space are offered now: the closed tutor group forum, typically the tutor and his 12 or so students; a general or cafe forum for the entire cohort to mix and related to these, but providing very different affordances, this space – the OU blog that is less than an individualised blog space, but more than a bulletin board – it is an odd hybrid that is quite restricted, but all the better for that – it is easier to get your head around and because every new post is stacked one on top of the other you are guaranteed a readership.

I can offer several examples of when things work and when they do not. A recent change in layout of the VLE has sidelined all but your own tutor group so the other offerings are moribund – these worked best when we had a ‘big name’ from the OU’s Institute of Educational Technology chairing and seeding discussions – I think it was during H800 a year ago. Another time when five or six of us just like to catch-up and share ideas often – triggered by the absence of our tutor for a few weeks and one of the group showing how we could take it in turns to post the week’s activities and moderate. Serendipity. I’ve been in a group where 75% of the group took no part at all …

Can lengthy posts be an issue? You don’t have to read them whereas if that person were talking you’d have to hesr them out. Lengthy posts were moderated, though not very well – an answer for a period was to write at length and provide a link to your OU Blog but this quickly fragmented as some people abandonded their OU blog for WordPress or Blogger. A fix has been to provide a prominent collapse ‘-‘ button and ‘+’ expand.

Like all new things it takes a few stabs at it to understand the ‘community rules’ and from personal experience recognise that as a learning activity this is effective – an early opportunity to apply what you pick up and for it to be useful would be an incentive to keep coming back? Or simply feeling part of something? Being supportive and supported too?

Web 2.0 Tools for Learning – what I recommend


It isn’t for lack of overwhelming, immersive and engaging content online, especially ‘how to’ movies and ‘clips’ in YouTube, its how you as an individual cope with this inexhaustible choice.

Armed with an 3G tablet and sim card will we find we are learning more on the fly, taking it with us, much of it free, some of it guided and paid for?

Taking advantage of participation (John Seely-Brown), learning on the periphery (John Seely-Brown), vicarious learning (Cox) and if you can get your tongue around it ‘serendipitous learning.’ (me I think).

I’m finding that 18 months in, and having really started this gig in 1998 when from the agency end we were migrating interactive DVD based learning to the Web, that I of necessity must balance the tools I can play (musical instrument metaphor), compared to those I play with (sandpit, training pool metaphor) … and I suppose those ones I am obliged to master whether I like it or not (prescriptive tools for work and study – in at the deep end metaphor?!).

Conole (2011) invites us to use ‘metaphors for meaning making’.

I always have, often visualising these metaphors. Just search this diary on ‘Metaphor’ to see what comes up. Also try words or phrases such as ‘traffic light’, ‘nurture’, ‘gardening’, ‘swimming’, ‘spheres of influence’, ‘hub’, ‘serendipity’ as well as ‘water’ and ‘water-cycle’.

I therefore offer the following:

Linkedin (For Forums, like this, in groups and networks)

WordPress (for blogging, sharing, wiki like affordances, training, updates)

iPad (or Tablet) (Whilst PCs and Laptops have considerable power and versatility

Twitter (only for niche/target live discussions or quasi-synchronous conversations.

The rest of it is ‘Twitter Twaddle’

Spam of the worst kind being pumped out by pre-assigned links as CoTweets or random disconnected thoughts. This is killing some forums where RSS feeds of this stuff overwhelms any chance of a conversation).

I’ve seen two Forums killed, temporarily I hope, by this stuff, the largest victim being the Oxford University Alumni group.

I believe it is simply the case of a new moderator niavely permitting Twitter feeds in on a discussion, ie. having the conversations between 30 disrupted by the disconnected chattering of 300.

REFERENCE

Cox, R. (2006) Vicarious Learning and Case-based Teaching of Clinical Reasoning Skills (2004–2006) [online], http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ esrcinfocentre/ viewawardpage.aspx?awardnumber=RES-139-25-0127 [(last accessed 10 March 2011).

How people learn and the implications for design

Had this been the title of a post-graduate diploma in e–learning it would have been precisely what I was looking for a decade ago – the application of theory, based on research and case studies, to the design and production of interactive learning – whether DVD or online.

A few excellent, practical guides did this, but as a statement of fact, like a recipe in a cook book: do this and it’ll work, rather than suggesting actions based on research, evidence-based understanding and case studies.

Mayes and de Frietas (2004) are featured in detail in Appendix 1 of Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age (2007) Beetham and Sharpe.

Four types of learning are featured:

  • 1. associative
  • 2. constructive (individual)
  • 3. constructive (social)
  • 4. and situative.

Of these I see associative used in corporate training online – with some constructive (individual), while constructive (social) is surely the OU’s approach?

Situative learning may be the most powerful – through application in a collaborative, working environment I can see that this is perhaps describes what goes on in any case, with the wiser and experienced passing on knowledge and know how to juniors, formally as trainees or apprentices, or informally by ‘being there’ and taking part.

Each if these approaches have their champions:

Associative – Skinner, Gagné (1985).

Constructive (individual) – Piaget (1970), Papert (1993), Kolb (1984), Biggs (1999).

Constructive (social) – Vygotsky (1978).

Situative – Wenger (1998), Cole (1993), Wertsch. (Also Cox, Seely Brown). Wertsch (1981), Engestrom (), Cole and Engeström (1993)

Beetham and Sharpe (2007:L5987) – the ‘L’ refers to the location in a Kindle Edition. I can’t figure out how to translate this into a page reference.

How people learn and the implications for design

Associative – Skinner, Gagné (1985) (in Mayes and de Frietas, 2004)

Building concepts or competences step by step.

The Theory

People learn by association through:

  • basic stimulus–response conditioning,
  • later association concepts in a chain of reasoning,
  • or associating steps in a chain of activity to build a composite skill.

Associativity leads to accuracy of reproduction. (Mnemonics are associative devices).

  • Routines of organized activity.
  • Progression through component concepts or skills.
  • Clear goals and feedback.
  • Individualized pathways matched to performance.
  • Analysis into component units.
  • Progressive sequences of component–to–composite skills or concepts.
  • Clear instructional approach for each unit.
  • Highly focused objectives.

For Assessment

  • Accurate reproduction of knowledge.
  • Component performance.
  • Clear criteria: rapid, reliable feedback.
  • Guided instruction.
  • Drill and practice.
  • Instructional design.
  • Socratic dialogue.

FURTHER READING (and viewing)

Brown, J.S. (2002) The Social Life of Information

Brown, J.S. (2007) October 2007 webcast: http://stadium.open.ac.uk/stadia/preview.php?whichevent=1063&s=31

+My notes on this:

http://learn1.open.ac.uk/mod/oublog/viewpost.php?u=jv276&time=1298439366&post=0

+The transcript of that session:

http://learn.open.ac.uk/file.php/7325/block1/H800_B1_Week2a_JSBrown_Transcript.rtf

REFERENCE

Biggs, J (1999) Teaching for Quality Learning at University, Buckingham: The Society for Research in Higher Education and Open University Press.  (Constructive alignment)

Cole, M. and Engestrom, Y. (1993) ‘A cultural-historical approach to distributed cognition’, in G. Salomon (ed.) Distributed Cognitions: Psychological and Educational Considerations, New Work: Cambridge University Press.

Conole, G. (2004) Report on the Effectiveness of Tools for e-Learning, Bristol: JISC (Research Study on the Effectiveness of Resources, Tools and Support Services used by Practitioners in Designing and Delivering E-Learning Activities)

Cox, R. (2006) Vicarious Learning and Case-based Teaching of Clinical Reasoning Skills (2004–2006) [online], http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ esrcinfocentre/ viewawardpage.aspx?awardnumber=RES-139-25-0127 [(last accessed 10 March 2011).

Engeström, Y (1999) ‘Activity theory and individual and social transformation’, in Y. Engeström, R, Miettinen and R.-L. Punamaki (eds) Perspectives on Activity Theory, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Eraut, M (2000) ‘Non-formal learning and tacit knowledge in professional work’, British Journal of Educational Psychology, 70:113-36

Gagné, R. (1985) The Conditions of Learning, New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Gagné, R.M., Briggs, L.J. and Wagner, W.W. (1992) Principles of Instructional Design, New Work: Hoplt, Reihhart & Winston Inc.

Kolb, D.A. (1984) Experiential Learning: Experience as a Source of Learning and Development, (Kolb’s Learning Cycle) Englewoods Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall

Kolb, D.A. (1984) Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development, Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice Hall.

Littlejohn, A. and McGill, L. (2004) Effective Resources for E-learning, Bristol: JISC (Research Study on the Effectiveness of Resources, Tools and Support Services used by Practitioners in Designing and Delivering E-learning Activities).

Mayes, T. and de Frietas, S. (2004) ‘Review of e–learning theories, frameworks and models. Stage 2 of the e–learning models disk study’, Bristol. JISC. Online.

Piaget, J. (1970) Science of Education and the Psychology of the Child (Constructivist Theory of Knowledge), New Work: Orion Press.

Papert, S. (1993) Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas, New Work: Perseus.

Piaget, J. (2001) The Language and Thought of the Child, London: Routledge Modern Classics.

Seely-Brown, J.S and Duguid, P. (1991) ‘Organizational learning and communities-of-practice: toward a unified view of working, learning and innovation’, Organizational Science, 2 (1): 40-57

Schon, D (1983) The Reflective Practioner: How Professional Think in Action, New York: Basic Books.

Sharpe, R (2004) ‘How do professionals learn and develop? In D.Baume and P.Kahn (eds) Enhancing Staff and Educational Development, London: Routledge-Flamer, pp. 132-53.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978) Mind in Society, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1986) Thought and Languages, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wertsch, J.V. (1981) (ed.) The Concept of Activity in Soviet Psychology, Armonk, N

Appendix and references largely from Beetham, H, and Sharpe, R (2007) Rethinking Pedagogy in a digital age.

See also Appendix 4: Learning activity design: a checklist

How people learn and the implications for design

Had this been the title of a post-graduate diploma in e–learning it would have been precisely what I was looking for a decade ago – the application of theory, based on research and case studies, to the design and production of interactive learning – whether DVD or online.

A few excellent, practical guides did this, but as a statement of fact, like a recipe in a cook book: do this and it’ll work, rather than suggesting actions based on research, evidence-based understanding and case studies.

Mayes and de Frietas (2004) are featured in detail in Appendix 1 of Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age (2007) Beetham and Sharpe.

Four types of learning are featured:

  • 1. associative
  • 2. constructive (individual)
  • 3. constructive (social)
  • 4. and situative.

Of these I see associative used in corporate training online – with some constructive (individual), while constructive (social) is surely the OU’s approach?

Situative learning may be the most powerful – through application in a collaborative, working environment I can see that this is perhaps describes what goes on in any case, with the wiser and experienced passing on knowledge and know how to juniors, formally as trainees or apprentices, or informally by ‘being there’ and taking part.

Each if these approaches have their champions:

Associative – Skinner, Gagné (1985).

Constructive (individual) – Piaget (1970), Papert (1993), Kolb (1984), Biggs (1999).

Constructive (social) – Vygotsky (1978).

Situative – Wenger (1998), Cole (1993), Wertsch. (Also Cox, Seely Brown). Wertsch (1981), Engestrom (), Cole and Engeström (1993)

Beetham and Sharpe (2007:L5987) – the ‘L’ refers to the location in a Kindle Edition. I can’t figure out how to translate this into a page reference.

How people learn and the implications for design

Associative – Skinner, Gagné (1985) (in Mayes and de Frietas, 2004)

Building concepts or competences step by step.

The Theory

People learn by association through:

  • basic stimulus–response conditioning,
  • later association concepts in a chain of reasoning,
  • or associating steps in a chain of activity to build a composite skill.

Associativity leads to accuracy of reproduction. (Mnemonics are associative devices).

  • Routines of organized activity.
  • Progression through component concepts or skills.
  • Clear goals and feedback.
  • Individualized pathways matched to performance.
  • Analysis into component units.
  • Progressive sequences of component–to–composite skills or concepts.
  • Clear instructional approach for each unit.
  • Highly focused objectives.

For Assessment

  • Accurate reproduction of knowledge.
  • Component performance.
  • Clear criteria: rapid, reliable feedback.
  • Guided instruction.
  • Drill and practice.
  • Instructional design.
  • Socratic dialogue.

FURTHER READING (and viewing)

Brown, J.S. (2002) The Social Life of Information

Brown, J.S. (2007) October 2007 webcast: http://stadium.open.ac.uk/stadia/preview.php?whichevent=1063&s=31

+My notes on this:

http://learn.open.ac.uk/mod/oublog/viewpost.php?post=60469

+The transcript of that session:

http://learn.open.ac.uk/file.php/7325/block1/H800_B1_Week2a_JSBrown_Transcript.rtf

REFERENCE

Biggs, J (1999) Teaching for Quality Learning at University, Buckingham: The Society for Research in Higher Education and Open University Press.  (Constructive alignment)

Cole, M. and Engestrom, Y. (1993) ‘A cultural-historical approach to distributed cognition’, in G. Salomon (ed.) Distributed Cognitions: Psychological and Educational Considerations, New Work: Cambridge University Press.

Conole, G. (2004) Report on the Effectiveness of Tools for e-Learning, Bristol: JISC (Research Study on the Effectiveness of Resources, Tools and Support Services used by Practitioners in Designing and Delivering E-Learning Activities)

Cox, R. (2006) Vicarious Learning and Case-based Teaching of Clinical Reasoning Skills (2004–2006) [online], http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ esrcinfocentre/ viewawardpage.aspx?awardnumber=RES-139-25-0127 [(last accessed 10 March 2011).

Cox, R. (2006) Vicarious Learning and Case-based Teaching of Clinical Reasoning Skills (2004–2006) [online], http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ esrcinfocentre/ viewawardpage.aspx?awardnumber=RES-139-25-0127 [(last accessed 10 March 2011).

Engeström, Y (1999) ‘Activity theory and individual and social transformation’, in Y. Engeström, R, Miettinen and R.-L. Punamaki (eds) Perspectives on Activity Theory, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Eraut, M (2000) ‘Non-formal learning and tacit knowledge in professional work’, British Journal of Educational Psychology, 70:113-36

Gagné, R. (1985) The Conditions of Learning, New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Gagné, R.M., Briggs, L.J. and Wagner, W.W. (1992) Principles of Instructional Design, New Work: Hoplt, Reihhart & Winston Inc.

Kolb, D.A. (1984) Experiential Learning: Experience as a Source of Learning and Development, (Kolb’s Learning Cycle) Englewoods Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall

Kolb, D.A. (1984) Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development, Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice Hall.

Littlejohn, A. and McGill, L. (2004) Effective Resources for E-learning, Bristol: JISC (Research Study on the Effectiveness of Resources, Tools and Support Services used by Practitioners in Designing and Delivering E-learning Activities).

Mayes, T. and de Frietas, S. (2004) ‘Review of e–learning theories, frameworks and models. Stage 2 of the e–learning models disk study’, Bristol. JISC. Online.

Piaget, J. (1970) Science of Education and the Psychology of the Child (Constructivist Theory of Knowledge), New Work: Orion Press.

Papert, S. (1993) Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas, New Work: Perseus.

Piaget, J. (2001) The Language and Thought of the Child, London: Routledge Modern Classics.

Seely-Brown, J.S and Duguid, P. (1991) ‘Organizational learning and communities-of-practice: toward a unified view of working, learning and innovation’, Organizational Science, 2 (1): 40-57

Schon, D (1983) The Reflective Practioner: How Professional Think in Action, New York: Basic Books.

Sharpe, R (2004) ‘How do professionals learn and develop? In D.Baume and P.Kahn (eds) Enhancing Staff and Educational Development, London: Routledge-Flamer, pp. 132-53.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978) Mind in Society, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1986) Thought and Languages, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wertsch, J.V. (1981) (ed.) The Concept of Activity in Soviet Psychology, Armonk, N

Appendix and references largely from Beetham, H, and Sharpe, R (2007) Rethinking Pedagogy in a digital age.

See also Appendix 4: Learning activity design: a checklist

How do we perceive and share knowledge? What matters most in this equation

How do we perceive and share knowledge? What matters most in this equation?

Society, the institution, department or the individual educator?

Learning occurs at the interface between individuals, between the teacher and pupil, between pupils and of course between the thinkers, the educators, researchers and academics.

This interface is expressed as an artefact: a lecture, a book, a TV appearance, a podcast, a chapter in a book or a paper – as an expression of a set of ideas. This interface is also a conversation, in a tutorial, at a conference or less formally in passing over a meal, or drink (in the Oxbridge experience at the High Table, in the senior, middle or junior common rooms, in halls and rooms where societies and loose groupings of people meet, as well as in studies and rooms). Recreation of this online as minds meet, discuss and share. Informal or proactive groups or societies coming together. People with people.

On the one hand we like to put the institution above the person, whether in academia or the commercial world we rank and recognise Oxbridge and the Russell Group ‘above’ other universities while, for example, in Law we put Freshfields, Clifford Chance and Herbert Smith in the top ten of 125 or 500 legal practices.

However, it is an the individual level, at the interface between one person and another, one mind and another, where the learning occurs, where the knowledge is applied and changed, and in various forms written up or written out to cause or record effect.

It is at this interface, where minds meet, where ideas are catalysed and formed.

Towards my own theory of learning ?

Or trying to get my head around Engestrom’s Activity Theory that fits the bill for me?

 

More on ‘Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age’.

Why does the OU put the novice and expert together in the MAODE?

Although I praise this approach and after two years have been a beneficiary I wonder if the research points to the need for greater flexibility and mixing, more akin to several cohorts of students being able to move around, between their own tutor group, contributing to discussions with the newcomers while also being able to hobnob with the experts?

The learning theory that I am coming to understand does not favour a fixed approach.

It isn’t simply a case of playing to the individual, though this is certainly very important as some people will favour being the teacher or the taught, or simply relish periods when they sit at the feet of the expert or stand up in front of newcomers. Rather it is apparent that people learn well within a peer group of like-minds, with people at a similar stage to themselves while having planned opportunities to hear and participate with ‘great minds’ while also from time to time contributing to the efforts and feeding off the enthusiasms of the ‘new minds’.

Nothing is fixed, neither learning vicariously (Cox, 2006), or learning from the periphery to the centre (Seely Brown and Duguid, 1999).

Stage one of my approach to reading these days is to highlight, even share quotes and notes on Twitter as I go through a book.

I then type up my notes and add further thoughts either by cutting and pasting from the aggregates notes in my Twitter feed (eBooks don’t allow you to cut and paste) or from handwritten notes I take on cards.

Then I share my notes here, tagged so that I can revisit and others can draw on my notes too or take the hint and read the chapter or book for themselves.

This too is but a stage – next step is to wrap up my developing thoughts, comments and other conversations and put a version of this entry into my external blog my mind bursts.

Sometimes an exchange here or elsewhere develops my thinking further – today I will be sitting down with a senior learning designer, one of five or six in the office of an international e-learning agency to talk learning theory and educational principles.

Chapter 2

Regarding Quality Assurance – there should be no inconsistencies between:

  • Curriculum
  • Teaching methods
  • Learning environment
  • Assessment procedures

So align assumptions:

  • Learning outcomes
  • Suitable assessment

N.B. Each outcome requires a different kind of theoretical perspective and a different pedagogical approach. L757

(Easy to say in theory, not so easy to deliver in practice?)

Three clusters of broad perspectives:

  • Associationism
  • Behaviourism
  • Connectionism

Associationist: gradual building of patterns of associations and skill components. Therefore activity followed by feedback.

Simple tasks prerequisites to more complex.

Gagné (1985 and 1992)

  • Instructional task analysis of discrimination, classifications and response sequences.
  • Simpler tasks built step by step followed by coordination to the whole structure.

Instructional Systems Design

  • Analyse the domain into a hierarchy of small units.
  • Sequence the units so that a combination of units is not taught until its component units are grasped individually.
  • Design an instructional approach for each unit in the sequence.

Then add:

  • Immediate feedback
  • Individualization of instruction

Behaviourism: active learning by design. Immediate feedback on success, careful analysis of learning outcomes, alignment of learning objectives.

The Cognitive Perspective

  • Attention
  • Memory
  • Concept Formation

Knowledge acquisition as the outcome of an interaction between new experiences and the structures for understanding that have already been created. Therefore building a framework for learning vs. learning as the strengthening of associations.

Piaget (1970) Constructivist Theory of Knowledge.

‘Conceptual development occurs through intellectual activity rather than by the absorption of information’. L819

Vygotsky (1928:1931) Importance of social interaction.

Interactions – that e-learning teams call ‘interactivities’.

The Situative Perspective

  • Learning must be personally meaningful
  • Authentic to the social context

(problem-based learning and cognitive apprenticeship). L862

The concept of community practice

Wenger (1998) identify as a learner derived from the community. (Aspires, defines, accredited).

Mayes et al (2001) learning through relating to others. E.g. Master Class

Social-anthropological belonging to the community. L882.

Beliefs, attitudes, common endeavour, also ‘activity systems’ Engestrom 1993

Learning relationships

Identify, participate, individual relations. Dependent on: context, characteristics and strength of relationships in the group (Fowler and Mayes, 1999) L902

What was exotic in 2007 in common place today?

See Appendix 1 L912

Learning as a cycle through stages.

  • J F Vernon (2011) H809 assignments and end of module assessment. The concept of riding a thermal of gently rising circles.
  • Various references L923.
  • Fitts and Posner (1968)
  • Remelhart and Norman (1978)
  • Kolb (1984)
  • Mayes and Fowler (1999)
  • Welford (1968)

If ‘as it proceeds from service to expert, the nature of learning changes profoundly and the pedagogy based on one stage will be inappropriate for another’. L923

Fowler and Mayes (1999)

Primary: preventing information

Secondary: active learning and feedback

Tertiary: dialogue and new learning.

REFERENCE

Beetham, H and Sharpe, R. (2007) Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age: Designing and delivering e-learning.

Cole, M and Engestrom, Y (1993) A cultural-historical approach to distributed cognition. In G.Salmon (ed.) Distributed cognitions: Psychological and Educational Considerations, New York, CVP.

Cox, R. (2006) Vicarious Learning and Case-based Teaching of Clinical Reasoning Skills (2004–2006) [online], http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ esrcinfocentre/ viewawardpage.aspx?awardnumber=RES-139-25-0127 [(last accessed 10 March 2011).

Gagné, R (1985) The conditions of learning. New York. Holt, Rhinehart and Wilson.

Jonassen, D.H. and Rohrer-Murphy, L (1999) ‘Activity theory as a framework for designing constructivist learning environments’. Educational Technology Research and Development, 47 (1) 61-80

Seely-Brown, J.S and Duguid, P. (1991) ‘Organizational learning and communities-of-practice: toward a unified view of working, learning and innovation’, Organizational Science, 2 (1): 40-57

Anderson on meeting student needs

5 Aug 2011

Getting the Mix Right Again: An updated and theoretical rationale for Interaction. How to be effective and efficient in meeting diverse student needs. Terry Anderson (2003)

Wagner’s (1994) “reciprocal events that require at least two objects and two actions. Interactions occur when these objects and events mutually influence one another” (p. 8).

A comment left on a blog is therefore a reciprocal interaction, like an asynchronous discussion in a forum, as there are two people (subjects) with in respective cases two objects (the blog and the comment) and two actions (the writing of the blog, the composition of a response in the form of a comment).

This does not, as Anderson suggests, negate Daniel and Marquis’s (1998) definition of interaction needing to refer “in a restrictive manner to cover only those activities where the student is in two-way contact with another person (or persons)” (Daniel and Marquis, 1988, p. 339). In 1989 they could not have known how texting would develop into meaningful interaction between two or more people, or the way in which asynchronous discussion could occur online.

  • Sims (1999) argues that interactivity allows for learner control, adaptation of the learner program, various forms of participation and communication, and as aiding the development of meaningful learning.
  • Lipman (1991) and Wenger (2001) say that interactivity is fundamental to the creation of the learning communities.
  • Jonassen (1991) says that another person’s perspective is a key learning component in constructivist learning theories.
  • Langer (1989) says that interaction develops mindfulness in learners.

There is a history of interaction as a theory in education

  • Dewey (1916) from inert information from another to your own understanding and interpretation in your head.
  • Holmberg (1989) between tutor and student, whether postal or on the phone.
  • Laurilard (1997) interaction between tutor, content and students.

The difference between formal and informal learning.

One, Anderson argues, is purposively designed to have a learning outcome. Though I do wonder, based on a recent Elluminate session in which we considered a formal and informal learning design for teaching The Green Cross Code if the informal miss has greater impact, the shock of the unexpected when you are nearly hit … Or as a driver or passenger you nearly hit (or even do hit) another?

Since both formal and informal learning can result from interaction between and amongst students alone, or as result of interaction between student and content, the participation of a teacher cannot be a defining feature of an educational interaction. (Anderson, 2003)

Anderson, 2003 suggested that due to the increasing computational power and storage capacity of computers (Moore’s Law), their increase in functionality when networked (Metcalfe’s Law), and related geometric increases in a host of technical developments (Kurzweil, 1999) created opportunity to transform student-teacher and student-student interaction into enhanced forms of student-content interaction.

In a way the interaction with the content of various kinds in mixed ways that goes on in the head Dewey (1916) has been the goal of the developers of interactive learning all along, in the training context this has occurred as facilitator-led learning was gradually transcended by workbooks in the 1980s, video-led and interactive (on laser-disc then Interactive DVD before) in the 1990s before efforts occurred to migrate content and interactivity to the web from the 1990s.

The multiple interplay of Anderson and Garrison’s (1998) Fig. 1 rings true, though how content without a student or teacher interloper baffles me and in 2011 teacher in the broadest sense should take in all educators and ancillary stakeholders.

There is no single medium that supports the educational experience in a manner that is superior in all ways to that supported via other media.

Clark’s (1994), Kozma’s (1994) Russell (2000) and many others show that there is ’a complicated interaction between content, student preference and need, institutional capacity and preference, and teaching and learning approaches to learning’.

There is also evidence that many students deliberately choose learning programs that allow them to minimize the amount of student-teacher and student-student interaction required (May, 2003; Kramarae, 2003).

While Anderson (2003) concludes that there is ’a wide range of need and preference for different combinations of paced and un-paced, synchronous and asynchronous activity, and also a strong desire for variety and exposure to different modes and modularities of educational provision and activity.’

From these observations and from the literature debate, Anderson developed an equivalency theorem as follows:

Deep and meaningful formal learning is supported as long as one of the three forms of interaction is at a high level:

• Student–teacher

• Student-student

• Student-content

The other two may be offered at minimal levels, or even eliminated, without degrading the educational experience.

High levels of more than one of these three modes will likely provide a more satisfying educational experience.

This theorem implies that an instructional designer can substitute one type of interaction for one of the others (at the same level) with little loss in educational effectiveness – thus the label of an equivalency theory.

Student-teacher interaction currently has the highest perceived value amongst students, and thus commands highest scores.

There is some evidence to suggest value in “vicarious interaction,” in which non-active participants gain from observing and empathizing with active participants (Sutton, 2001; Fulford and Zhang, 1993).

Also Cox (2006) with a nod to John Seely- (2007) (both from week 2)

For planning or development purposes, designers are encouraged to build into their programs strategic amounts of each type of interaction, and to develop activities that will encourage this amount of interaction.

This interests me because I wonder if we could take the call-centre principal and apply it to social media, a collective engagement of substance.

At Athabasca University, Anderson writes, students had access (7 days a week, 12 hours a day) to call centre staff. They were equipped with FAQ databases, course syllabi, and a limited amount of content knowledge to answer a wide variety of student inquiries.

Would this help with retention?

It would contribute to engagement. It did contribute to deeper learning. Are we now saying that this interaction must come from fellow students? Or alumni groups in social networks?

I know that in the corporate sector Epic offer clients a ‘call-centre’ like service as they have realised that online interactive learning naturally throws up situations where students want to talk to an informed and sympathetic person. No one wants to be passed from pillow to post. I say this as an informed online learner who has not just had to sleep on a problem, but the nature of responses either send you to sleep or leave you wanting to bang your head against a post.

I loathe this kind of academic language.

This is where academics address each other, a PhD student to their sponsor perhaps. It puts students and the inquisitive mind at arm’s length.

This will change in the Web 2.0 world as this content gets an airing well-beyond its original place in a printed journal and with a few tags and comments gets spread rapidly across thousands rather than a handful of readers.

‘The equivalency theorem proposed in this paper is not as complicated nor as technically detailed as other theories relevant to distance education (e.g., Jaspers, 1991; Saba and Shearer, 1994). However, its simplicity allows it to function as an accessible heuristic for distance education delivery design’. Anderson (2003)

My highlights.

The choice of words then this massive compound-noun says to me this person is trying to sound clever, elitist and worthy of the academic status they aspire to. It is poor communication. Even the chunk of referencing sticks in the gullet. We should in theory reference every word we utter, as none are our own, all could be tagged back to someone, somewhere.

Clarity counts.

By quoting Wilson here Anderson reveals his motives. Sometimes academics what to coin a phrase or word: e-tivity (Salmon, 2002), sometimes a phrase: digital natives (Prensky, 2001, 2003, but read Jones to put this terms where they belong), sometimes a theorem, this one being ‘The Equivalency Theorem’.

Wilson (1997), Anderson tells us, described three functions that a good educational theory performs.

I’ll let you read the conclusion in the paper for these.

My interest is not in developing a theorem, my quest is for understanding that I may then apply.

An important paper, dense, chronological, logical, a great intellect chew.

Anderson (2003) ends with this:

‘I am convinced that many of these alternatives should be focused on creating the most cost effective and accessible alternatives that can scale to meet the burgeoning global demand for effective and affordable life-long learning opportunities. In most cases, these models will drastically reduce the amount of teacher-student interaction, and substitute it with increased student-student and student-content interaction. For many, this scenario is a frightening one, but one that is in keeping with our tradition of expanding educational access and opportunity, and thus not one we should abhor’.

Eight years on I feel like sounding him out.

Was he prescient? Where is he now?

The fact Anderson has missed is the greater desire for increased personalisation, learning tailor to the individual and increased interaction through social networks, with the knowledgeable as well as the ignorant (whether or not they are the person’s tutor or faculty academics).

Actually, the group I find silent are the tutors and academics.

They are too busy with their heads in their professional thoughts unable to offer up a piece of their minds without attaching a price or allocated time to it. Is this the difference between a professional musician and a busker?

REFERENCE

Anderson, T., and Garrison, D.R. (1998). Learning in a networked world: New roles and responsibilities. In C. Gibson (Ed.), Distance Learners in Higher Education. (p. 97-112). Madison, WI.: Atwood Publishing.

Anderson, T. (2003). Modes of interaction in distance education: Recent developments and research questions. In M. Moore (Ed.) Handbook of Distance Education. (p. 129-144). Mahwah, NJ.: Erlbaum.

Cox, R. (2006) Vicarious Learning and Case-based Teaching of Clinical Reasoning Skills (2004–2006) [online], http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ esrcinfocentre/ viewawardpage.aspx?awardnumber=RES-139-25-0127 [(last accessed 10 March 2011).

Fulford, C. P., and Zhang, S. (1993). Perceptions of Interaction: The critical predictor in distance education. American Journal of Distance Education, 7(3), 8– 21.

John Seely-Brown October 2007 webcast: http://stadium.open.ac.uk/stadia/preview.php?whichevent=1063&s=31 +My notes on this: http://learn.open.ac.uk/mod/oublog/viewpost.php?post=60469+The transcript of that session: http://learn.open.ac.uk/file.php/7325/block1/H800_B1_Week2a_JSBrown_Transcript.rtf

Jaspers, F. (1991). Interactivity or Instruction? A reaction to Merrill. Educational Technology, 31(3), 21 – 24.

Jonassen, D. (1991). Evaluating constructivistic learning. Educational Technology, 31(10), 28 – 33.

Jones, C (2010) A new generation of learners? The Net Generation and Digital Natives

Kurzweil, R. (1999). The age of spiritual machines. New York: Penguin Group.

Langer, E. (1989). Mindfulness. Reading, MA.: Addison-Wesley.

Lipman, M. (1991). Thinking in Education. Cambridge, UK.: Cambridge University Press.

Saba, F., and Shearer, R. (1994). Verifying key theoretical concepts in a dynamic model of distance education. American Journal of Distance Education, 8(1), 36 – 59.

Salmon, G. (2002) E-tivities: The Key to Active Online Learning, London, RoutledgeFalmer.

Sims, R. (1999). Interactivity on stage: Strategies for learner-designer communication. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 15(3), 257 – 272. Retrieved May 25, 2002 from: http://cleo.murdoch.edu.au/ajet/ajet15/sims.html

Sutton, L. (2001). The principles of vicarious interaction in computer-mediated communications. Journal of Interactive Educational Communications, 7(3), 223 –242. Retrieved July 15, 2003 from: http://www.eas.asu.edu/elearn/research/suttonnew.pdf

Wagner, E.D. (1994). In support of a functional definition of interaction. American Journal of Distance Education, 8(2), 6 – 26.

Wenger, E. (2001). Supporting communities of practice: A survey of community-orientated technologies. (1.3 Ed.) Shareware. Retrieved Mar 12, 2003 from: http://www.ewenger.com/tech/

Wilson, B. (1997). Thoughts on theory in educational technology. Educational Technology, 37(1), 22 – 26.

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