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

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). I 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.

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.

Beetham, Conole and Weller are key MAODE 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 Wordle would have scattered these 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 three of the key protagonists look like an advertising agency Gagne, Beetham and Conole.

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 experssion 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

USEFUL LINKS

Wordle

Date duration calculator

REFERENCE

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

Use of mobile devices in e-learning

There must be industry reports that can give a more current ‘state of play’ for use of mobile devices (smart phones and tablets in particular) … though not necessarily confined to use in education.

The Kukulska-Hulme et al 2011 report ‘Mature Students using mobile devices in life and learning’ may be a recent publication (International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning Jan-march 2001) but draws its conclusions on research undertaken in between May 2008 and April 2009.

Technologically and in relation to the potential for e-learning a great deal has happened since then.

In industry would we not expert a report, say from Nielsen or Monitor, to have been done in the last six months?

In the technology sector old news is redundant.

By 2009 PDAs were virtually extinct and we were about to experience the launch of the iPad. Since 2009 smart phones have graduated – they’re bright in many ways.

Like their users?

Bright people with the means quickly find ways to put these tools to work, extending their reach to their online course, for materials, forums and assessment alerts, to organise their study time around their diary.

FROM THE ABSTRACT

‘In today;s global marketplace, educators must know the technology habits and expectations of their students, including those from other countries.’ (Kukulska-Hulme et al, 2001:18)
 
 FROM THE INTRODUCTION
 
“Learners can be active makers and shapers of their own learning. They should be supported in using technologies of their own choice where appropriate”. (JISC, 2009, p.51)
 
Mobile (as they were) will not necessarily be readily adapted for learning.
 
Ergonomic, pedagogical, psychological and environmental facts and the issue of cost (Stockwell, 2008)
 
More widespread adoption by students and teachers is likely to follow. (ibid 2011:19)
 
A convenient and powerful tool for learning.
 
In an age when “communities are jumping across technologies” as needs and trends evolve (Wenger, 2010), educators and researchers also have to stay informed about how learners use personal technologies as members of communities that may be social, work-related or educational’.
 
Decreasing institutional control
 
Jones, Ramanau, Cross and Healing (2010) have critiqued the ‘new generation’ arguments, concluding that “overall there is growing theoretical and empirical evidence that casts doubt on the idea that there is a defined new generation of young people with common characteristics related to their exposure to digital technologies through-out their life (p.6)
Notable minorities
  • Internet to download or upload materials
  • Contribute to blogs and wiki and engage with virtual worlds (ibid p.21)
‘We consider that learners who use handheld mobile devices (e.g., their phones and mp3-players) to support their learning constitute a minority at the present time. We agree that their age seems less important than their position as early adopters and instigators of change through their influence among their peers and through their networks’. (2011:19)
 
Students registered on such programmes would be particularly strong. (distance learning).
 
The sample was purposive.
 
For key areas:
  • Learning
  • Social Interaction
  • Entertainment
  • Work
Interplay between them (Kukulska-Hulme & Pettit, 2009)
 
‘Learning’ is not an unambiguous term … instead of the double negative why not ‘learning is an ambiguous term’.
 
Does the rhetorical device of the double negative make the statement less assailable?
 
‘We were interested in gathering data that might challenge the still widespread opinion amongst educators that mobile devices are of little use for academic study. Activities such as web browsing, reading e-news, article reading, book reading, and note taking are valued in the academic world but often considered implausible on handheld devices.’ (2011:20)
 
Until more recently that his study which was carried it 2009.
 
Since the survey was developed, other devices including notebook computers and ebook readers have become popular, making it even more difficult to draw boundaries between ‘handheld learning’, laptop learning’ and ‘desktop learning’. (2011:21)
 
As if such a distinction was ever necessary? They are all computers, just different sizes, affordances and capabilities.
 
I liken this loss of boundaries, or the blurring, to drops of ink in a tank of water that gradually swirl about each other and merge.
 
We are able to highlight some differences that became apparent
 
Conversations with their students
 
Students do not always realise the potential of new tools and this is an aspect where educators can help (Trinder, Guiller, Margaryan, Littlejohn & Nicol, 2008)
 
Questions covered:
  • About yourself
  • use of mobile devices
  • Being part of groups and communities
  • Specific uses for mobile devices
  • Mobile devices for learning
Open questions enabled participants to write a response in their own terms.
 
A total of 270 students complete the questionnaire.
 
Over all the report notes that:
  • There are receptive, productive and communicative uses
  • Respondents are using mobile devices to capture ideas and experiences
  • Mobile devices have a useful function as tools that remind he user about what she/he has to do.
  • Respondents make use of a range of applications for informal learning.
  • One function of games is to fill gaps ion the day.
  • Some respondents appear to be drawing boundaries around disparate uses
  • The mobile phone features as an alternative means of communications and to support physical mobility, e.g. as an alternative to having a land line or when work involves travelling.

RE: LEARNING

  • Contact with others
  • Access to information and answers
  • Reading e-Books
  • Listening to Podcasts
  • Scheduling

RE: MORE UNUSUAL USES:

  • Recording one’s voice
  • Replay on iPod
  • Taking photos
  • Contacting experts in other fields
  • Uploading notes to blog
  • Facebook
  • Windows Live Messenger
  • MSN
  • Sky[e
  • Language learning
  • Finding information
  • Headphones to shut out distractions
  • Productive activities
‘Reported benefits of using mobile devices to be part of groups or communities include spontaneous communications, flexibility, speed, stimulation and use of technology to cope with changing arrangement’. (2011:27)
 
27 Distinct used of mobile devices (ibid, 2011:28)
 
The three most intensive uses are very clearly sending text messages, browsing websites and listening to music … and reading e-news. (2011:28)
 
Responses included well established advantages such as convenient access to information or to the Internet and the ability to contact people whenever needed. Specific new/innovative aspects notes by respondents included (2011:29):
  • Permanency of taking notes: paper is easily lost
  • Multipurpose; yo can take your work/entertainment with you
  • Can combine work with a run with listening to a podcast
  • Podcasts give access to unique historical/scientific content
  • Suits auditory learners
  • Closer relationship between students and teacher
  • Multimedia in one small device is a timesaver for teachers
  • Instant documentation of whiteboard notes
  • Taking photos of overhead slides
  • Help with learning disabilities
  • Alternative news source/breaking news/immediate first hand reports
  • Helps maintain a public diary with a community dimension
  • Quick way to learn
  • Gets you outdoors
  • Field trips become more fruitful and challenging
DISCUSSION AND REFLECTIONS
 
Mobile devices are shown to support informal; and community learning
 
While the predominant use for mobile devices is communication, it seems that other aspects of social interaction can benefit, such as the ability to share media between mobile devices directly or blended across other social networking technologies like Facebook.
 
The research confirms the global popularity of SMS, browsing websites, listening to music, taking photographs and making notes. It also highlights that reading e-news and listening to podcasts are relatively frequent activities among some students, and that article- and book-reading, once considered implausible on handheld devices, are popular among a minority. (2011:30)
 
What is interesting is that there appear to be many ways in which users are employing technologies to generate products. Bruns (2005) coined the term ‘produsers’ to denote both of these approaches. One survey shows that mobile devices are enabling users to create resources for teaching purposes, write blogs to keep their friends up to dave with events, take and distribute photos and videos, and make and take notes and recordings’. (2011.31)
 
 New practices compared to old studies (2007/2009) include:
  • Using apps on the phone including Facebook and MSN
  • Using GPS to find places
  • Watching movies, TV, shows, vodcasts
  • Listening to audio book,s podcasts
  • Being part of micro-blogging communities e.g. Twitter
  • Browsing websites
  • Using location-based services, e.g. to find nearby taxis, banks, restaurants, etc.
  • No longer having a land line.

Mobile device use is a fast-changing field that reflects rapid social changes as well as the increasing availability and smarter marketing of new devices. (ibid, 2011:32)

Micro-blog – are becoming more widespread, and we wold expect these uses to figure more prominently in the future. (2011:32)

Slate devices Apple iPad.

Several universities now offer ‘apps’ for smartphones using platforms such as Campus M.

Our findings indicate that institutions planning to offer mobile apps should build on the existing preferences of students for social communication. listening to audio, watching video and reading short texts if the apps are successfully to enhance the learning experience. (2011:32)

When students are offered  appropriate mobile resources then they will use them. (2011:32)

We agree with Kennedy et al (2008) that ‘an evidence-based understanding of students’ technological experiences is vital in informing higher education policy and practice.’ (p. 109)

Pressures of study and assignment deadlines lead them to seek effective solutions to immediate needs on the go. (2011:33)

Avoid a ‘proadoption bias’

Futhermore, since the use of a mobile device represents a new technological means of reading books, articles and news, this might have an impact on how, and how much, students read, however further research would be needed. (2011:33)

The landscape of mobile devices has changed since our survey with some devices (standalone PDAs) becoming almost extinct and others (handheld GPS) endangered. (2011:33)

In favour of smart mobile phones and tablet devices.

REFERENCE

Bruns, A. (2005) ‘Anyone can edit’: understanding the produser. Retrieved from http;//snurb.info/index. php?q=node/s86
Conole, G (2007) Describing learning activities: Tools and resources to guide practice. In Beetham, H, & Sharpe, R (eds.), Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age: Designing and delivering e-learning (pp.81-91) London, UK: Routledge

Kukulska-Hulme, Agnes, John Pettit, Linda Bradley, Ana A. Carvalho, Anthony Herrington, David M. Kennedy, and Aisha Walker. “Mature Students Using Mobile Devices in Life and Learning.” IJMBL 3.1 (2011): 18-52. accessed (May 22, 2011)

JISC. (2009). Effetive Pratice in a Digital Age: A guide to technology-enhanced learning and teaching. Retrieved from http://www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/programmerelated/2009/effectivedigital-age.aspx

Rogers, E.M. (2005) Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.) New York, NY: Free Press

Jones, C.R., Ramanau,R., Cross, S., & Healing, G. (2010) Net generation or Digital Natives: Is there a distinct new generation entering university? Computers & Education, 54(3), 722-732. doi. 10.1016/j.compendu.2009.09.022

Stockwell, g (2008) Investigation learner preparedness for and usage patterns of mobile learning. ReCALL, 20(3), 253-270. doi.10.1017/S058344008000232.

Trinder,k., Guiller,j., Margaryan,A., Littlejohn,A., & Nicol,D. (2008). Learning from digital natives: bridging formal and informal learning. Retrieved from http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/York/documents?LDN%20FINAL%eport.pdf

Wenger, E (2010). SIKM community presentation online. Theme: REthinking Ourselves (KM People) as Technology Stewards. Retrieved from http://technologyforcommunities.com

 

Tools for Learning Design

PART ONE

This is how I develop a Creative Brief … this happens to be an MAODE exercise on Learning Design.

As a video producer this is the idea I’d sell to the client.

I’d then work with a coach and group of swimmers to set the scene and milk it.

This is the kind of thing corporate clients use to teams of 10,000 employees. This is also how I go about writing scripts, sometimes adding drawings, cut-outs from magazines and photos. Nothing hi-tech at the thinking stage … which gives people more freedom to contribute.

A whiteboard marker pen on unforgiving wallpaper backing paper (30p a roll in from the reduced bin!). Stuck to the kitchen door.

PART TWO

The Forum Thread deserves as Swim lane of its own with as much activity into it and Elluminate as I have put here into a blog/microblog.

Often I find a dedicated thread such as e-Learning Professionals is more likely to guarantee a response to something I say; the reason for this is simple, they have thousands of active members.

There are reliable statistics to say what tiny per centage of people are happy to write, read, comment and contribute. 1% to write, about 4% to comment. This has to be reflected in forum activity too, however much it is required by the course. I’ve missed out blogs other students keep, and the links back and forth to these.

You’d be surprised how much goes on in the background.

I’ve found myself working things through with people in different tutor groups, who did the module a year ago … or who have nothing to do with MAODE but have an answer. Which reminds me of the fantastic diagram drawing tool dia. How does Naughton’s journalistic point of view compare to those of an academic?

I worked through it alone, blogged about it and offered thoughts and replied in the tutor forum.

The degree or blogging I’ve put forward reflects what I consider an invaluable addition to taking part in Forum Threads. You express what you think, ‘stream of consciousness’ into your own blog, edited to140 character for Twitter than take part in a Forum where some back and forth discussion should come about.

The other invaluable form of participation is through a conference call – as Jonathan Swift said, ‘I don’t know what I mean until I have heard myself speak.’

This is akin to a treatment outline for a video. The script in our case is the ad-libs and verbatim responses of student and input from the tutor. I like the idea of swim-lines and can imagine the Tutor online as a coach, rather than a subject matter expert, as a guide and mentor.

The reality is that such rapport develops with fellow students.

It is a shame that there isn’t more continuity through your original cohort. I have used the Compendium to share projects, using the layers to attach documents and have another contribute. For a simple mind map I like bubbl.us, otherwise I’m as likely to do a sketch and photograph it to share … or draw directly into a paint/draw package such as ArtPad using a stylus and Wacom board. Like all tools you need to have a clear use for it, rather than playing in a sandpit. To be able to collaborate in a team people need to be familiar with and using the same software/platforms.

Compendium can be used as a basic mind-map or flow chart and with experience be used for much more, as an e-portfolio of sorts.

It is overly prescriptive. Tools need to be intuitive and follow common practices regarding buttons and outcomes. For a first draft I prefer marker pen on paper, followed by bubbl.us.

As Beetham’s Chapter 2 (Activity 2) points out learners will find their own way through a task regardless. We understand things differently, draw on different experiences and come up with our own metaphors.

Whilst I go with the ‘Swim Lanes’ analogy, I often think the reality is like a Catherine-wheel nailed to a post in the rain.

Should an exercise such as this be addressed in a way that has so scientific connotations? It is surprising how easy it is to share the narrative of a linear activity in a multitude of ways. A simple set of numbered bullet points, perhaps worked up as a presentation. As a board game, one step taken at a time. Or a set of activity cards. You can talk it through by counting five activities off on your fingers. I’ll do one of these in the truly, joyful, brilliant http://www.bubbl.us and post it to my ou blog and extracurricular blog’ ‘My Mind Bursts’ which in turn is fed to Twitter ‘jj27vv.’

Make one of these mind maps, then change your mind and be tickled with the way the ‘node’ or ‘bubbl’ behaves . Go see! This and a list of wonderful tools from an H808 student who is a primary school teacher in Thailand. Work should be fun, especially learning design. After all, if you don’t enjoy it, how do you expect your future students to behave?

PART THREE

Bubbl.us has gone from toy to a grown up tool with layers and the opportunity to add sound, images (stills and moving) and no doubt much more, none of which I have had time to try.

The old bubbl.us was like playing with kid’s party balloons and when you deleted a balloon (or node) it blew up and burst into flames. This new version still does some magic to the eye, fading away like a mist, also when you save melting into the background like a rainbow of ice melting.

An extraordinary delight to the senses and apparently of far more practicle use than I credited it with a few months ago.

Click on this and it takes you to Picassa Dropbox. You can then enlarge it, save the code and help yourself. I think all the images I’ve put into this OU identify album is ‘open to the public.’

Seeing this all again I am reminded of my inspiration David McCandless.

By working on this a few more times an art director or designer would turn it into a thing of beauty; it is this level of inspiration that sells ideas to committees, colleagues and others.

People buy into ideas. People like to be inspired.

The pedagogy must of course be sound, the right offering of activities, outcomes and learner flexibility and support is the OU magic mix.

P.S. Don’t imagine I was familiar with any of these tools until I started the MAODE in Feb 2010, most of everything I now use I was introduced to by someone here.

PART FOUR

Add the role of the Tutor.

Get in a designer and make it a thing of information beauty.

Sell it internally and externally.

Schedule, produce.

Watch what happens and adjust accordingly.

How do we cope with this inexhaustible choice?

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.

E-Learning : Further reding from the OU

Further reading and distractions. Several I’d recommend here for H800ers and H807ers and H808ers. In deed, anyone on the MAODE.

A couple reveal other interests (Swimming, History) as well as business interests (Digital Marketing/Social Networking)

I just craved a read, cover to cover, rather than all the reports and soundbites. At the top of my list for relevance is the 1994 translation of Lev Vygotsky from a book that was originally published in 1926 – highly relevant to e-learning because perhaps only with Web 2.0 can his ideas be put into action. Also Rhona Sharpe and Helen Beetham (eds) on ‘Rethinking Pedagogy for the Digital Age’, just the kind of thing we read anyway, just valuable to read the entire collection as there is a pattern, a train of thought you follow through the book with an excellent introduction to each chapter by the editors. Others? Several on the corporate side, impressed with Larry Webber. Several practical if you are teaching and want loads of ‘how to’ e-tivities. Don’t touch Prensky – inflated and vacuous. I don’t understand why or how come he is so often brought into conversations … because he irritates people into speaking out?

From Computer Lab to iPad – my 30 year journey through learning enhanced by computers

I was, in 1983, introduced to the wonders of the University Computer Lab.

‘Back then’ this wasn’t an elective, but rather signing up to some additional, extra-curricular training.

It did not appeal one bit; I could imagine to some degree where it was going and its necessity in one of my options in my undergraduate degree course (remote sensing from space), but to achieve anything (I am neither computer literate or mechanically minded), it struck me, as was the case, that your required a certain mindset (that of an engineer or mathematician). Because it was in little demand, not networked, bespoke to a project and housed in one place it was akin to joining the stamp club and about as exciting. It was however ‘on request,’ rather than compulsory and could with ease be ignored.

I wonder if a more laissez-faire approach would work?

More of an internal market in an organisation where choices are offered to individuals so that the decission making could be more bottom up than top down? i.e. you have a budget, you pick the kit you’d like, the software you need rather than being prescribed a piece of kit and software and obliged to learn it.

I imagine the moment I can afford to buy a Mac I’ll do so.

The simplest analogy would be is that I feel I’ve been told I have to use a Rotring pen and a ruler, but I’d prefer to use a soft HB6 pencil and a pad of cartridge paper. The end result, the task or peice of communication I have to deliver will be the same, I just get there ‘my way,’ rather than ‘your way’.

My university experience from the 1980s, to that as student and now insider thirty years on at the OU is different, however, invited to meet a group of Associate Lecturers yesterday to have my mind picked regarding web-conferencing, Elluminate and synchronous learning in general, I was struct not by how things have changed, but how what matters hasn’t changed at all – there are educators who are fascinate by and passionate about what they do.

There is a desire to do the best by their students and to get their heads around what tools could be used to improve or enhance this experience. Even speaking with my 85 year old father-in-law, a former prof who still ‘teaches’ I am struck by this vocational zeal, which is shared whether by email and Skype, by snailmail or a tutorial, collaboration on a book, or giving a talk (still) at a summer school.

The lesson I have learnt therefore is never to let the technology get in the way of this experience, that between educator and student, the knowledgeable and the less knowledgeable, playing on this inhate human desire to share our experience and knowledge whatever that might be.

Increasingly, when discussing the merits of kit or software, I return to this theme, that people have not changed and that the natural relationships that form between people in markets, in villages, in communities, is what we crave and repeatedly recreate online in a multitude of ways.

Use of mobile devices in e-learning

26th May 2011

Where do we strand with the use of mobile devices in learning?

The Kukulska-Hulme et al 2011 report ‘Mature Students using mobile devices in life and learning’ may be a recent publication (International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning Jan-march 2001) but draws its conclusions on research undertaken in between May 2008 and April 2009.

Technologically, in relation to the potential for e-learning, has move on a great deal. In industry would we not expect a report, say from Nielsen or Monitor, to have been done in the last six months?

As Kukulskha-Hulme and her colleagues point out by 2009 PDAs were virtually extinct and we were about to experience the launch of the iPad. Since 2009 smart phones have graduated – they’re bright in many ways.

Like their users?

Bright people with the means quickly find ways to put these tools to work, extending their reach to their online course, for materials, forums and assessment alerts, to organise their study time around their diary.

‘In today’s global marketplace, educators must know the technology habits and expectations of their students, including those from other countries.’ (Kukulska-Hulme et al, 2001:18)

A growing body of students expect a component of their course to be managed using mobile devices.

I like this point from JISC. It supports the constructive view of learning

“Learners can be active makers and shapers of their own learning. They should be supported in using technologies of their own choice where appropriate”. (JISC, 2009, p.51)

It is interesting that the report notes that ‘mobile will not necessarily be readily adapted for learning’ (a 2008/2009 perspective) with reasons given as: ‘Ergonomic, pedagogical, psychological and environmental facts and the issue of cost’. (Stockwell, 2008)

Much more is possible today, and expected.

They do suggest that, ‘more widespread adoption by students and teachers is likely to follow’. (ibid 2011:19)

The report notes ‘notable minorities’

A notable major minority who ‘use the internet to download or upload materials.’ (major minority)

And a lesser minority, minority who ‘contribute to blogs and wiki and engage with virtual worlds.’ (ibid p.21) (minor minority)

‘Their age seems less important than their position as early adopters and instigators of change through their influence among their peers and through their networks’. (2011:19)

Which debunks Prensky and favour diffusion of innovations as a mode of study.

‘We were interested in gathering data that might challenge the still widespread opinion amongst educators that mobile devices are of little use for academic study. Activities such as web browsing, reading e-news, article reading, book reading, and note taking are valued in the academic world but often considered implausible on handheld devices.‘ (2011:20)

Which has indeed happened with smarter phones and the proliferation of the tablet (or slate) or iPad … whatever the term might be that we settle on.

‘Since the survey was developed, other devices including notebook computers and e-book readers have become popular, making it even more difficult to draw boundaries between ‘handheld learning’, laptop learning’ and ‘desktop learning’. (2011:21)

As if such a distinction was ever necessary? They are all computers, just different sizes, affordances and capabilities.

I liken this loss of boundaries, or the blurring, to drops of ink in a tank of water that gradually swirl about each other and merge.

MOBILE DEVICES ARE USED IN LEARNING FOR:

– Contact with others

– Access to information and answers

– Reading e-Books

– Listening to Podcasts

– Scheduling

Producers and consumers become ‘produsers

One survey shows that mobile devices are enabling users to create resources for teaching purposes, write blogs to keep their friends up to date with events, take and distribute photos and videos, and make and take notes and recordings’. (2011.31)

What is interesting is that there appear to be many ways in which users are employing technologies to generate products.

Bruns (2005) coined the term ‘produsers’ to denote both of these approaches.

‘Our findings indicate that institutions planning to offer mobile apps should build on the existing preferences of students for social communication. Listening to audio, watching video and reading short texts if the apps are successfully to enhance the learning experience’. (Kukulska-HUlme 2011:32)

When students are offered appropriate mobile resources then they will use them. (2011:32)

‘Since the use of a mobile device represents a new technological means of reading books, articles and news, this might have an impact on how, and how much, students read, however further research would be needed’. (2011:33)

More research is always needed … in deed, with a longitidunal study this research would and should undertake to look at a cohort or students EVERY year.

REFERENCE

Bruns, A. (2005) ‘Anyone can edit’: understanding the produser. Retrieved from http;//snurb.info/index. php?q=node/s86

Kukulska-Hulme, Agnes, John Pettit, Linda Bradley, Ana A. Carvalho, Anthony Herrington, David M. Kennedy, and Aisha Walker. “Mature Students Using Mobile Devices in Life and Learning.” IJMBL 3.1 (2011): 18-52. Accessed (May 22, 2011)

Rogers, E.M. (2005) Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.) New York, NY: Free Press

Jones, C.R., Ramanau, R., Cross, S., & Healing, G. (2010) Net generation or Digital Natives: Is there a distinct new generation entering university? Computers & Education, 54(3), 722-732. doi. 10.1016/j.compendu.2009.09.022

Use of mobile devices in e-learning

22 May 2011

There must be industry reports that can give a more current ‘state of play’ for use of mobile devices (smart phones and tablets in particular) … though not necessarily confined to use in education.

The Kukulska-Hulme et al 2011 report ‘Mature Students using mobile devices in life and learning’ may be a recent publication (International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning Jan-march 2001) but draws its conclusions on research undertaken in between May 2008 and April 2009.

Technologically and in relation to the potential for e-learning a great deal has happened since then.

In industry would we not expect a report, say from Nielsen or Monitor, to have been done in the last six months?

In the technology sector old news is redundant.

By 2009 PDAs were virtually extinct and we were about to experience the launch of the iPad. Since 2009 smart phones have graduated – they’re bright in many ways.

Like their users?

Bright people with the means quickly find ways to put these tools to work, extending their reach to their online course, for materials, forums and assessment alerts, to organise their study time around their diary.

FROM THE ABSTRACT

‘In today’s global marketplace, educators must know the technology habits and expectations of their students, including those from other countries.‘ (Kukulska-Hulme et al, 2001:18)

FROM THE INTRODUCTION

“Learners can be active makers and shapers of their own learning. They should be supported in using technologies of their own choice where appropriate”. (JISC, 2009, p.51)

Mobile (as they were) will not necessarily be readily adapted for learning.

Ergonomic, pedagogical, psychological and environmental facts and the issue of cost (Stockwell, 2008)

More widespread adoption by students and teachers is likely to follow. (ibid 2011:19)

A convenient and powerful tool for learning.

In an age when “communities are jumping across technologies” as needs and trends evolve (Wenger, 2010), educators and researchers also have to stay informed about how learners use personal technologies as members of communities that may be social, work-related or educational’.

Decreasing institutional control

Jones, Ramanau, Cross and Healing (2010) have critiqued the ‘new generation’ arguments, concluding that “overall there is growing theoretical and empirical evidence that casts doubt on the idea that there is a defined new generation of young people with common characteristics related to their exposure to digital technologies through-out their life (p.6)

Notable minorities

Internet to download or upload materials (major minority)

Contribute to blogs and wiki and engage with virtual worlds (ibid p.21) (minor minority)

‘We consider that learners who use handheld mobile devices (e.g., their phones and mp3-players) to support their learning constitute a minority at the present time. We agree that their age seems less important than their position as early adopters and instigators of change through their influence among their peers and through their networks’. (2011:19)

Students registered on such programmes would be particularly strong. (Distance learning).

The sample was purposive.

For key areas:

Learning

Social Interaction

Entertainment

Work

Interplay between them (Kukulska-Hulme & Pettit, 2009)

‘Learning’ is not an unambiguous term … instead of the double negative why not ‘learning is an ambiguous term’.

Does the rhetorical device of the double negative make the statement less assailable?

‘We were interested in gathering data that might challenge the still widespread opinion amongst educators that mobile devices are of little use for academic study. Activities such as web browsing, reading e-news, article reading, book reading, and note taking are valued in the academic world but often considered implausible on handheld devices.‘ (2011:20)

Until more recently that his study which was carried it 2009.

Since the survey was developed, other devices including notebook computers and e-book readers have become popular, making it even more difficult to draw boundaries between ‘handheld learning’, laptop learning’ and ‘desktop learning’. (2011:21)

As if such a distinction was ever necessary? They are all computers, just different sizes, affordances and capabilities.

I liken this loss of boundaries, or the blurring, to drops of ink in a tank of water that gradually swirl about each other and merge.

We are able to highlight some differences that became apparent

Conversations with their students

Students do not always realise the potential of new tools and this is an aspect where educators can help (Trinder, Guiller, Margaryan, Littlejohn & Nicol, 2008)

Questions covered:

About yourself

Use of mobile devices

Being part of groups and communities

Specific uses for mobile devices

Mobile devices for learning

Open questions enabled participants to write a response in their own terms.

A total of 270 students complete the questionnaire.

Over all the report notes that:

There are receptive, productive and communicative uses

Respondents are using mobile devices to capture ideas and experiences

Mobile devices have a useful function as tools that remind he user about what she/he has to do.

Respondents make use of a range of applications for informal learning.

One function of games is to fill gaps in the day.

Some respondents appear to be drawing boundaries around disparate uses

The mobile phone features as an alternative means of communications and to sport physical mobility, e.g. as an alternative to having a land line or when work involves travelling.

RE: LEARNING

Contact with others

Access to information and answers

Reading e-Books

Listening to Podcasts

Scheduling

RE: MORE UNUSUAL USES:

Recording one’s voice

Replay on iPod

Taking photos

Contacting experts in other fields

Uploading notes to blog

Facebook

Windows Live Messenger

MSN

Skype

Language learning

Finding information

Headphones to shut out distractions

Productive activities

‘Reported benefits of using mobile devices to be part of groups or communities include spontaneous communications, flexibility, speed, stimulation and use of technology to cope with changing arrangement’. (2011:27)

27 Distinct uses of mobile devices (ibid, 2011:28)

The three most intensive uses are very clearly sending text messages, browsing websites and listening to music … and reading e-news. (2011:28)

Responses included well established advantages such as convenient access to information or to the Internet and the ability to contact people whenever needed. Specific new/innovative aspects notes by respondents included (2011:29):

Permanency of taking notes: paper is easily lost

Multipurpose; you can take your work/entertainment with you

Can combine work with a run with listening to a podcast

Podcasts give access to unique historical/scientific content

Suits auditory learners

Closer relationship between students and teacher

Multimedia in one small device is a timesaver for teachers

Instant documentation of whiteboard notes

Taking photos of overhead slides

Help with learning disabilities

Alternative news source/breaking news/immediate first hand reports

Helps maintain a public diary with a community dimension

Quick way to learn

Gets you outdoors

Field trips become more fruitful and challenging

DISCUSSION AND REFLECTIONS

Mobile devices are shown to support informal; and community learning

While the predominant se for mobile devices is communication, it seems that other aspects of social interaction can benefit, such as the ability to share media between mobile devices directly or blended across other social networking technologies like Facebook.

The research confirms the global popularity of SMS, browsing websites, listening to music, taking photographs and making notes. It also highlights that reading e-news and listening to podcasts are relatively frequent activities among some students, and that article- and book-reading, once considered implausible on handheld devices, are popular among a minority. (2011:30)

What is interesting is that there appear to be many ways in which users are employing technologies to generate products. Bruns (2005) coined the term ‘produsers’ to denote both of these approaches. One survey shows that mobile devices are enabling users to create resources for teaching purposes, write blogs to keep their friends up to date with events, take and distribute photos and videos, and make and take notes and recordings’. (2011.31)

New practices compared to old studies (2007/2009) include:

Using apps on the phone including Facebook and MSN

Using GPS to find places

Watching movies, TV, shows, vodcasts

Listening to audio books, podcasts

Being part of microblogging communities e.g. Twitter

Browsing websites

Using location-based services, e.g. to find nearby taxis, banks, restaurants, etc.

No longer having a land line.

Mobile device use is a fast-changing field that reflects rapid social changes as well as the increasing availability and smarter marketing of new devices. (ibid, 2011:32)

Micro-blog – are becoming more widespread, and we would expect these uses to figure more prominently in the future. (2011:32)

Slate devices Apple iPad.

Several universities now offer ‘apps’ for smartphones using platforms such as Campus M.

‘Our findings indicate that institutions planning to offer mobile apps should build on the existing preferences of students for social communication. Listening to audio, watching video and reading short texts if the apps are successfully to enhance the learning experience’. (2011:32)

When students are offered appropriate mobile resources then they will use them. (2011:32)

We agree with Kennedy et al (2008) that ‘an evidence-based understanding of students’ technological experiences is vital in informing higher education policy and practice.’ (p. 109)

Pressures of study and assignment deadlines lead them to seek effective solutions to immediate needs on the go. (2011:33)

Avoid a ‘proadoption bias’

‘Furthermore, since the use of a mobile device represents a new technological means of reading books, articles and news, this might have an impact on how, and how much, students read, however further research would be needed’. (2011:33)

The landscape of mobile devices has changed since our survey with some devices (standalone PDAs) becoming almost extinct and others (handheld GPS) endangered. (2011:33)

In favour of smart mobile phones and tablet devices.

REFERENCE

Bruns, A. (2005) ‘Anyone can edit’: understanding the produser. Retrieved from http;//snurb.info/index. php?q=node/s86

Conole, G (2007) Describing learning activities: Tools and resources to guide practice. In Beetham, H, & Sharpe, R (eds.), Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age: Designing and delivering e-learning (pp.81-91) London, UK: Routledge

Kukulska-Hulme, Agnes, John Pettit, Linda Bradley, Ana A. Carvalho, Anthony Herrington, David M. Kennedy, and Aisha Walker. “Mature Students Using Mobile Devices in Life and Learning.” IJMBL 3.1 (2011): 18-52. Accessed (May 22, 2011)

JISC. (2009). Effective Practice in a Digital Age: A guide to technology-enhanced learning and teaching. Retrieved from http://www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/programmerelated/2009/effectivedigital-age.aspx

Rogers, E.M. (2005) Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.) New York, NY: Free Press

Jones, C.R., Ramanau, R., Cross, S., & Healing, G. (2010) Net generation or Digital Natives: Is there a distinct new generation entering university? Computers & Education, 54(3), 722-732. doi. 10.1016/j.compendu.2009.09.022

Stockwell, G (2008) Investigation learner preparedness for and usage patterns of mobile learning. ReCALL, 20(3), 253-270. doi.10.1017/S058344008000232.

Trinder, K., Guiller, J., Margaryan, A., Littlejohn, A., & Nicol, D. (2008). Learning from digital natives: bridging formal and informal learning. Retrieved from http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/York/documents?LDN%20FINAL%eport.pdf

Wenger, E (2010). SIKM community presentation online. Theme: Rethinking Ourselves (KM People) as Technology Stewards. Retrieved from http://technologyforcommunities.com

Email is a snowball fight, a wiki is a snowman … I guess a blog is an ice-sculpture

Fig. 1. A massive snowball fight

I’m taking copious notes from Collaborative Learning in a Wiki Environment: Experiences from a software engineering course. Minocha and Thomas (2007)

I made this note at the bottom of the third page:

  • Email = snowball fight
  • Wiki = building a snow man.
  • Blog= ice-sculpture

What do you think?

Requires a cold climate. I like any metaphor to do with working online to the water cycle … oceans, currents, clouds, precipitation and so on. Why not snowballs and showmen?

I’ll share my notes in due course. I consider this to be a significant paper for H800, indeed for the Masters in Open and Distance Education.

I does a great deal more than study wiki best practice, its strengths and weaknesses, blogs get a look in (a wiki, and an e-portfolio are after all variations of the same thing).

 

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