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Why most published research findings are false

Why most published research findings are false

REFERENCE

Ioannidis, J A 2005, ‘Why Most Published Research Findings Are False’, Plos Medicine, 2, 8, pp. 696-701, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 12 February 2013.

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What is learning?

From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Learning that is connected, socialised and shared

Does learning happen within the head of an individual, or is it mediated, situated and distributed?

Learning as an artefact is the potential informed or insightful response in an individual’s brain. Learning as a process includes the mechanisms of the brain and everything that person perceives around them – which must indirectly include everything they’ve laid down in their memory and how the subconscious responds to any of it.

What does a test or exam measure?

A test or exam can only be judged by how it is constructed and where and how it fits into a period of study – is the test part of the learning process or an assessment? Are the questions open or closed? Are their significant time constraints or not? So they should test what they were designed to test.

Selecting a topic and title. H818 Activity 3.1.

Fig.1. Listening to a memorable and evocative ‘visitor audio tour’ on Alcatraz. Away from the bustle of people, by a nature reserve for nesting gannets. 

1) Theme and Format. Presentation of a multimedia model, QStream, for use before, during and after a trip that might be to a museum, historic property or battlefield.

2) With the centenary of the First World War upon us I would like to find ways to enhance the visitor experience, perhaps for those with a GCSE or A’Level, or an undergraduate interest rather than for the general public. Ideally there would be options to select a level of interest and previous understanding.

3) For this audience Secondary or Tertiary audiences will be of most interest. Perhaps even promoting an MA course for graduate Historians?

4) I have had an interest in QStream for a couple of years and developed a proposal for its use with patients with chronic illness. This is an alternative, though equally valid use for the platform. My only variation on this would be to include an audio component, and/or to track visitors so that content might be tailor to and for them.

5) How an App that spaces learning over a period of weeks and months can support the experience of visiting a museum, historic property or battlefield.

How an App is able to create a personalised experience for a visitor to a museum, historic property or battlefield that enhances the learning experience without distracting from the artefacts or the place itself, in other words, in compliments and augments the experience created by the visitor on their trip.

6) Already familiar with QStream (aka Spaced-Ed) I checked on latest papers and developments. I searched ‘museum’, ‘augmented’ and ‘elearning’ and from a selection of around 12 papers have thus far read, in depth, two of these as well as a couple of commercial conference presentations of a museum platform.  Based on this the idea is shifting towards headphones tracked in a space feeding a bespoke sound landscape and commentary based on where a person is and their observed and apparent behaviour. One platform avoided the need for any input by the user, though for my purposes GCSE (Key Stage X), A’leve (Key Stage Y) or Undergraduate, even Graduate is considered necessary so that you compliment the person’s necessary learning experience.

7) My literature research approach can always be refined, having completed H809 Research-based practices in online learning I feel competent to conduct a thorough search.

8) One glitch was to in error delete a folder in RefWorks rather than create a bibliography. There was no back button to undo. I make look at purchasing a commercial referencing tool such as EndNote. Having always felt that online learning was a process I felt the need to have a subject specialism too, for this reason I am taking a Masters degree in British First World War studies with the University of Birmingham. This is a very different experience. A monthly day of lectures/tutorial, a reading list with books to find from a regional university library, and an online platform that makes the OU VLE look like Whisley to Bham’s assorted allotments under the railway bridge! But you do get to meet fellow students and librarians.

9) Audio, without visuals, feelslike harking back to audioguides of the 1980s and 1990s, yet today, with GPS and other sophisticated tracking devices a visitor experience can be situated, to the spot, personalised to the individual, and still be evocative through ‘painting pictures’ in the mind without distracting from artefacts museum curators have so carefully chosen. A recent experience visiting Alcatraz, for all its Disneyfication and complimentary wildlife sanctuary cum Native American protest camp, included what I would describe as a BBC Radio 4 docudrama that was intelligent, moving an engaging – a blend of officer, prisoner and officer family oral memoir and soundscape. However, it did rely on the visitor being in the right spot when the audio was played so that very quickly, taking my own route around the island, I found the content in my head at odds, in an interesting way, with what I was looking at: gannets nesting on an old basketball yard (making it akin to a visit to the Farne Islands or the Bass Rock, also an old prison) while in the distance multimillion dollar multi-hull yachts raced the America’s cup.

On Reflection

The experience of Alcatraz would be extended if I had this audio-tour still to listen to repeatedly, to read as a transcript and then to find links for my own research. Having circumvented the regular tour I nearly found myself embarking with the headphones still plugged in … I’m like the characters in ‘Jurassic Park’, I soon tire of someone else’s plot and create my own journey.  It gave new meaning to the ‘birdman’ of Alcatraz, for example. And I can see why Clint Eastwood would never have made it to land … you’d be washed out into the Pacific.

Time to write

Fig.1 H809 EMA Mindmap (for fellow H809 / MA ODErs I’ve added a PDF version in the TMA Forum) Created using Simpleminds.

  • H809 – Practice-based research in e-learning
  • MA ODE – Masters in Open and Distance Education
  • TMA – Tutor Marked Assignment
  • PDF – PDF

Yonks ago I realised for me the best time to study was v.early in the morning. 4.00 am to breakfast isn’t unusual, 5.00 am is more typical. All it costs is an early night. This is easy too – no television. Its move from the shed to the dump is imminent.

A week ahead of schedule I find I have an EMA to complete – this’ll give me a three hour, exam like run of it. Even the dog knows not to bother me.

For those on the same path the mindmap of my H809 EMA is above.

Ask if you’re interested in a legible PDF version.

This gorse bush off density has patterns within it that I can decipher. The net result ought to come out somewhere around the 4,000 word mark too. This approach could not be more different to my earliest TMAs and EMAs three years ago – they were too often the product of what I call ‘jazz writing’ (this kind of thing), just tapping away to see where it takes you. This process used to start on scrolls of backing wallpaper taped to my bedroom wall. Now it goes onto a whiteboard first.

As always this blog is an e-portfolio: most notes, moments in student forums and references are in here.

I recommend using a blog platform in this way. You can default to ‘private’, or share with the OU community … or ‘anyone in the world’. One simple addition to this would be a ‘share with your module cohort’.

By now I have clicked through some 165 posts taggeed H809 and can refer to H809ema for those picked out for it.

One split occured – I very much wanted to explore the use of augmented reality in museum visits, but found instead a combination of necessity and logic taking me back to the H809 TMA 01 and a substantial reversioning of it. Quite coincidentally this proposed research on adherence to preventer drugs amongst moderate to severe asthmatics had me taking a very close interest on a rare visit to a hospital outpatient’s. Nasal endoscopy must look like a circus trick to the casual observer as the consultant carefully ‘lances’ my skull through the nose with a slender and flexible rod on which there is a tiny camera and light. ‘Yes, I can see the damage from surgery’ he declares (this was 33 years ago), ‘but no signs of cancer’.

There’s a relief.

An unexplained nose bleed lasting the best part of 10 weeks was put down to my good-boy adherence to a steroid nasal spray that had damaged the soft tissue. And the medical profession wonder why drug adherence can be so low? 20% to 60% 33 years on and courtesy of the OU Library I found a wholly convincing diagnosis – allergic rhinitis. The ‘paper’ runs to over 80 pages excluding references and has some 20 contributors (Bousquet, 2008). I’ll so miss access to the online library as most papers appear to cost around the £9 to download. This desire to remain attached by a digital umbilical chord to such a resource is one reason I wish to pursue yet more postgraduate studying and potentially even an academic career. I get extraordinary satisfaction browsing ‘stuff’ to feed my curiosity.

When I stop diddling around here I’ll pick off this mindmap in a strick clockwise direction from around 1 O’Clock.

Simpleminds is great as a free App. It’s taken me a couple of years to get round to paying £6 for a version that can be exported into a word file though I rather enjoy the slower, more considered ‘cut and paste’ which adds another opportunity to reflect, expand or ditch an idea.

REFERENCE

Bousquet, J, Khaltaev, N, Cruz, A, Denburg, J, Fokkens, W, Togias, A, Zuberbier, T, Baena-Cagnani, C, Canonica, G, Van Weel, C, Agache, I, Aït-Khaled, N, Bachert, C, Blaiss, M, Bonini, S, Boulet, L, Bousquet, P, Camargos, P, Carlsen, K, & Chen, Y (2008) ‘Allergic Rhinitis and its Impact on Asthma (ARIA) 2008 Update (in collaboration with the World Health Organization, GA2LEN’, Allergy, 63, pp. 8-160, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 19 June 2013.

Methodological Innovation

From the Oxford Internet Institute

Methodological innovation is vital given the changing nature of the Internet and advances in ICTs which both necessitate and facilitate the development of new techniques.

OII researchers are developing methodologies such as:

  • big data approaches;
  • the embedding of ICT s for real time observation of social phenomenon;
  • webmetric techniques for observing the underlying structure of the web presence of social institutions;
  • artificial intelligence design;
  • experimental research;
  • on-line action research;
  • content analysis;
  • investigation of virtual environments;
  • and online survey research.

The five current research foci examine the role of the Internet and other ICTs in:

  •  government and democracy: where ICT s offer significant opportunities for restructuring practices and institutions, for example in the management and delivery of government services and the functioning of governance processes
  •  research and learning: focusing on the use and impact of ICTs within academic and research communities and the social and institutional contexts in which this takes place
  •  everyday life and work: covering the role of the Internet and other ICTs in personal interactions in the household, the arts, and entertainment, and the needs of individuals and the wider community in work, social relationships, leisure, and activities in other arenas that bring society online
  •  shaping the Internet: how rapidly developing ICTs are liberated or constrained, including how the Internet itself is governed.
  •  network economy: how ICTs reshape business models, markets and economic development.

MOOCs are a relatively new phenomenon. There’s been a lot of hype about them. What does the research say? 

A ‘MOOC’ is a ‘Massive Open Online Course’, perhaps better called on ‘Free Online Course’.

The ‘Massive’ comes from online video games where there can be huge numbers of participants. An early online module on engineering from Stanford had some 10,000 initial participants. A couple of years later and niche, less popular courses from far less prestigious establishments may have only a few hundred participants which takes the ‘massive’ out of the MOOC, and can in turn diminish the learning experience as only a fraction of students participate and only a fraction stay to the end. Well meaning MOOCs I have done, one for example on e-learning design for MOOCs, could well have been down to a dozen active participants by the end as the drop-out rate was so high, largely, in my view, in that instance, because the demands on and expectations of participating students was far too high.

Where to search

In addition to investigating ISI Web of Knowledge and Google Scholar, see also the bibliographic databases ERIC and PsycINFO and the full-text databases SwetsWise and ScienceDirect.

My OU Student Blog has 55 entries on MOOCs, this begins with very early forays, lurking, in the 2010/2011 before committing as a participant twice this year, in the Open University’s Online Learning Design MOOC (OLDS MOOC) and the OU’s Martin Weller chaired H817 Open MOOC. I was able to give five then three weeks full-time to each before EMAs and life made me reduce the time I could give to them.

Particularly the OLDS MOOC that I would describe as a standard OU Module with as many, if not more activities and even more potentially to read … as well as the now obligatory interaction in a Google Hang-out and forums which, unlike in a standard OU Module, had the active participation of some of the heavy hitters of online learning.  A blind alley though, other than a reminder of what it is like to take part in a MOOC.

Questions to ask

  • Is anything known about the educational impact of MOOCs, as distinct from their news impact?

  • What research methods were used?

  • What could be known about MOOCs?

  • Are research methods being developed ‘new’?

Warnings

  • You may go up many blind alleys, but persist.

  • You might not find a huge number of high quality research studies. As mentioned above good research often takes time to set up, analyse and write up; and the most highly rated journals typically have detailed peer review and editing processes, followed by long lead times for publication.

  • You may well find yourself in the so-called ‘grey literature’ – conference papers, technical reports, reports to funders, web pages, blogs, and so on. Such grey literature was once more difficult to search than journals, but now dominates online search results. It has traditionally had a lower academic status than peer-reviewed journals. However, this situation might change because of the growth of web-based publishing and the need for studies about fast-changing technologies to be published quickly.

As previously, keep notes on what you find, and on your reflections.

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).

Reference

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

H809 is like a very large Gouda

If H809 is a very large Gouda Cheese – the size of a climbing frame, then I have consumed, wholesale everything from week 1 to 6.

We are now in week 9.

Ever since the TMA at the end of week 6 I have been back in this Cheesy Climbing frame – what remains of it – with another 11 weeks to go.

Far from meticulously deconstructing externally week by week, activity by activity and constructing internally in an equally measured way, I find I am juggling, cartoon mouse-like, three pieces of cheese:

  • Week 7 – 7 Activities: done 3/7
  • Week 8 – 7 Activities: done 4/7
  • Week 9 – 5 Activities: done 0/5

Glad I did that.

Bang goes H817open which will have to postpone. Forget the ABC Gestion de Project. And only the impulsive would sign up for a MOOC on the Human/Computer interface.

All must now wait.

I’d be on top of this had I not put a couple of weeks into H817open.

(though OER is highly relevant to H809 too)

I’ve got six days to get on top of all of this, write the TMA then go on holiday for ten days.

I’ll put the above into a table and tick each off.

I reckon, at a glance, that this around 28 hours = jeepers.

And writing the TMA will require = X?!

Crack on, crack on …

The TMA can ‘progress’ in the background while I get through the above.

 

Teenagers doing physics with the intervention of a computer to prompt discussion: a paper reviewed

In the abstract we are told that ‘Although ICT resources are commonly expected to produce uniform benefits’ Tolmie (2001) Are they? And that, ‘they are necessarily employed within pre-existing contexts of educational and social activity’. Tolmie (2001)

When and where could a context NOT be pre-existing?? Something is, or is not. Context is an absolute.

Rather, what is that specific context. Otherwise this is tautology. It is like saying that electricity pylons go into an existing landscape. Isn’t this stating the obvious so that a gullible audience nod in agreement?

Tolmie (2001) talks of ‘unexpectedly diverse effects’. Unexpectedly or diverse? Surely not both.

Is this not something of an exaggeration? And in any case, such diverse responses should be either expected, or not presumed either way to be likely or unlikely to happen. It is very dangerous to pre-empt findings.

I visualise the introduction of new technology such as this as drops of ink in a pool of water in a stream  – it has to compete with the mix that is already there, as well as its natural flow and other behaviours – leaking away into the land and evaporation for a start.

My conclusion based on reading the abstract is to: Think people above all else. Internal and external contexts are fluid and based on responses too and feelings.

It is all complex, and more to do with the brains of the individuals than simply their context . Everything can and should be measured in some way, from an agreed benchmark, to monitor, track then analyse. It is far more complex.

Take any class, habituated by the classroom, the people around us and the pattern and behaviour of the teacher … especially on a warm Friday afternoon, no wonder the mind wanders. Just because a person is physically in a classroom, even participating in a task, does not mean that much is going in if they are dreaming of the weekend or Fiona Henderson from the girl’s school down the road …

The expression ‘oversimplified’ used by Tolmie (2001)  is a) hyperbole b) a value judgment.

Better ‘simplified’, preferably qualification of the term – simplified as in ‘clipped or contained’ that parameters are created because of the remit of the funding process. You are not able to ‘look outside the box’ as only that which takes place in the box is funded. There needs to be some of one and some of the other – research based on ‘tackling circumscribed needs’ while at the same time research that has an open brief and is open ended – that stands back to see the wood for the trees, rather than, to continue the metaphor, to examine only one kind of tree in the woods in order to avert the ‘mentality of one-stop resources’ mentioned by Oliver & Conole (1998)

How else do you address improving a situation other than by identifying the problems?

Anything else is misguided (literally), or indulgent. Far worse, in the NHS, and Post Office and Banking System have been wholesale computing systems that really were alien and universal.

Change management. Everyone has a point. Time to listen and involves matters most. The psychology of innovation. Resistance is despised. (Robinson et al., 1998)

Making the wrong assumptions that blame the teachers rather than the technology – which is a catalyst for complexity, rather than a tool for conformity.

Evaluation work also rarely does more than examine the explicitly intended effects of ICT, and so fails to identify unintended or serendipitous repercussions that may actually be a critical aspect of its impact (Jones, 1998).

But the entire point and context of an exam is to remove such context in the surroundings by placing the student in ‘exam conditions’ in a neutral space, where parameters of time and context are controlled and aim to be common to other students and impartial.

Surroundings mean different things to different people. It is naive and deterministic to think that people are so easily governed by their context. The individual over the surroundings. Unless we think students are like a uniform tribal grouping.

I’m through the reading and taking it further – reading the original paper to see if my concerns and amusement are justified.

I find the gender difference uninsightful and unhelpful – we know this anyway. Men and woman are different physiologically – which includes the brain where there are various documented differences especially between the differing amount of grey and white matter and the concentration of neurones and close connections in women compared to men. But the differences between men and women are not black and white (and their are not racial differences whatsoever) … within these differences there is considerable variety.

Now add each person’s context – which for me starts a few months after conception and every possible influence since – the same chaos theory that says that when a butterfly beats its wings in the Brazilian Jungle there is a typhoon in Malaysia will suggest that that marshmallow your grandmother gave you on Christmas day when you were six while watching Jimmy Saville introduce the Chart Show will influence how you respond to the 14 year old boy you have been paired up with in a physics class who offers you a handful of mini-marshmallows by way of ‘making friends’ who in turn is nervous about this strange but beautiful creature who he hasn’t noticed all year but rather fancies even though his older brother has his eye on her – what was that the teacher said checking the trajectory of your balls on the computer ?????

The wrong approach was taken, though the theory throws up some interesting questions

I will change my opinion as I go through my notes but my current stance is that a quantitative before and after study requires many hundreds of participants in a randomised controlled trial and the gender differences are a distraction – far better to have administered questionnaires before and after and drawn upon each students SATS results or some such to get some sense of where they were coming from in relation to physics.

More interesting pairings would be like-minds and enemies – really. A couple of buddies having a laugh might learn less than a pair who can’t stand each other, or another pair who are rivals.

Have I been watching too many teen movies? Probably.

Already I have a script in my head based on Tolmie in which far from being the less talkative, the FM pairs are chatting away to themselves (in their heads, written and delivered as stream of consciousness voice over), communicating in subtle ways through body language and as a result actually communicating more, not less than the ones who won’t shut up – and who may be playing up to the research conditions.

This is the other fundamental humdinger of a problem – these students are being tested under ‘lab conditions’.

My memories of teenager physics classes are more akin to St.Trinian’s with boys. I even have a diary to call upon which I may look at just to get me into the role. I have a household of teenagers and another five nephews and nieces in this age bracket if I need to be reminded of what it is (and was) like.

Oddly enough, work is often the last thing on their minds. Which is why homework is so important – fewer potential distractions.

This will be less than hearsay in due course – I am also refreshing what it was and is like to be a teenager through some additional reading. Problem is my daughter senses that I am observing her from time to time.

I’m just asking myself the same question I asked when she was born, ‘what is going on in there?’ – but in a quasi-academic rather than father-daughter way.

Researchers make the mistake of believing that their intervention – in this case using a computer to support a physics class by trying to prompt discussion – is going to make some measurable difference.

Can they not see the bigger picture, and how vast it is?

If each human brain has as many neurons in it as the visible galaxy – 98 billion, and each brain though similar, is connected in different ways, by gender but essentially by genetics, with every remembered moment of waking and sleeping life in between. This is why, to have something measurable, researchers taken to the lab and until recently would have stuck with sea-snails, rats and in the past cats and primates … while gradually observation and measurement of electro-chemical activity in the human brain has become possible.

When it comes to exams surely examiners know that the response to a unique set of questions in an exam, certainly at undergraduate level, if not at post compulsory level, will test the student’s ability to construct a response both from what they know, and what they have to surmise.

REFERENCE

Jones, C. 1998 Evaluating a collaborative online learning environment Active Learning

Oliver, M. & Conole, G. (1998) Evaluating communication and information technologies: a toolkit for practitioners. Active Learning, 8,3–8.

Robinson, H., Smith, M., Galpin, F., Birchall, D., Turner, I. (1998) As good as IT gets: have we reached the limits of what technology can do for us? Active Learning, 9, 50–53.

Tolmie, A. (2001), Examining learning in relation to the contexts of use of ICT. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 17: 235–241. doi: 10.1046/j.0266-4909.2001.00178.

What is the point in playing chess if you let a computer give you the answers and all you do is move the pieces?

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

  • What will be the point as or once all the answers are online?
  • Where we let algorithms and the Web provide the answers?

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

Knowledge acquired is how learning occurs.

  • The learning process is necessary in order for the brain to make sense of it (or not)
  • And we do so, each of us, in an utterly unique way.
  • Less so because of when or where we were born,
  • But because we were made this way.

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

Our DNA is unique and the brain it constructs also.

Not hard considering considering:

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

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

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

And fall in and out of love.

Enthusiasms bubble up like farts in the wind.

Life is like a game of chess

We are its players and pieces whether we like it or not.

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

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

Life is not a game though

And we are more than merely players.

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

Unless …

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

A rollercoaster of our own making.

There is no need for noise and tension,

where we can be cool in war and love.

 

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