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Teaching, coaching and mentoring

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I have done and do all three. Are coaching and mentoring subsets of teaching? Yes, though I don’t have to have been the teacher to do either. Another person can be the teacher and that teaching could surely have been done through a book, video or game? After several months doing a Rosettastone language App where or who is my teacher? Perhaps my wife is my mentor and buying in time with a person will add coaching to the mix.

I wonder if to be taught is akin to taking a train or bus ride, while self-directed learning is like riding a bike? That learning like this is like driving a car where through choice the passengers are either fellow learners and the tutor/educator?

Timing would be a key consideration for me – which would relate to pace, variety, purpose and spreading myself around the ‘class’. I will be in a studio like ‘class’ this afternoon for three hours. The groundwork has been done by others, in this context I am a catalyst and sounding board. The teaching will have been done, I don’t know the students well enough to mentor them so it as ‘coach’ or ‘consultant’ that in small groups they will have me for 10-15 minutes each. I have learnt to set a timer on this, not just setting a stopwatch on an iPhone anymore, but going in with a large egg timer – A bit theatrical but it keeps everyone’s attention. Reflecting on ideas about ‘the lecture’ what the above means to me is exploiting the live nature of it – I even consciously dress for the part.

Increasingly I am coming to cherish the values of teaching live and in the flesh for me ‘the teacher’ and for the students. All the more reason to milk these up close moments and cherish them for what they are compared to being disembodied and at a distance online.

Online vs. Face to face Learning

I’ll add notes here as the differences between the online and ‘traditional’ learning experience dawn on me as I do the two in parallel. Actually there’s a third comparison I can make – that of L&D which the other week included something neither of the above formats offer – ‘learning over a good lunch!’

Time Management

The ‘traditional’ seminar or lecture forces your hand somewhat – you have to be there. Many these days are recorded, though mine will not be. I’m inclined therefore to take either a digital or audio recorder along to record these things. I have, just a couple of times over three years, got behind with the online course as I kept putting it off.

Travel … and the associated cost

It’ll be around four hours door to door once a month. This means getting up at 4.30 am. Not of course something someone in full time tertiary education needs to do. Off peak, unless booked well in advance it’ll cost £74 return … £24 if I stick to exact trains. The last train home was heaving. I could and did ‘work’ the entire journey whereas home is a constant distraction.

Eating on campus

Lunch I may have to take with me as the campus only had premade Spar sandwiches at every outlet. A jacket potato or pasta would have been better.

Nodding off

After lunch I did something I last did in double Geography on a Friday afternoon. I sat at the back, cupped my hands over my eyes as if in deep thought … and fell asleep.

When to put in the hours

Something, however common to many people on any part-time distance learning course is ‘the early morning shift’ – putting in 90 minutes or so before breakfast.

Library Services

While this and other support services are offered to us on our VLE it was invaluable to to have a person run through it as a presentation in person. This kind of stuff should be given a linear expression … a mini-module for newcomers and as a refresher. All I’ve done, two years after the event, was a webinar.

‘What’s new about new media?’ A decade on have the hopes of the digital age been realised?

Fig.1. Ideafisher – a CD-Rom I used extensively in the 1990s.  Indeed, it probably contributed to the writing of this article

(I posted this on 1 December 1999, without the image. Not quite my first blog post, that was two months earlier on 27 September. Verbatim. I’ll reflect elsewhere on how things have changed in 13 years. Do please offer comments and thoughts. No longer the ‘Net’ and we don’t call ourselves ‘infomediaries’ but search tools rule and bandwidth means that we have video on demand)

There’s a saying, “freedom is lack of choice,” the problem is, these days, when it comes to business-to-business communications the choice is bewildering, especially as New Media has blurred the edges between traditional media, such as print and video, and computers have blurred the edges between communications and businesses processes. That said, the use of traditional means of business-to-business communication, print and video, far from falling under the shadow of the Net is if anything more robust. The same technology that created the Net has speeded up the print and video production processes and made them more flexible. The reasons for producing, for example, a regular staff magazine or staff newspaper in print, for producing regular business television programmes, motivational and promotional videos remain valid.

Before we get hooked on the technology though, remember that craft skills, such as writing, designing and direction are just as important as programming.

The technology that has made these “New” forms of communication possible has at the same time invigorated print and video communications. Thanks to desk top publishing and non-linear editing, as well as the greatly reduced costs of the hardware and software involved, there has been no reduction in the number and variety of printed internal business communications and in the use of video not just as the video version of the corporate, but for everyday matters such as induction, health & safety and sales training, as well as business to business communications such as investor reports and video news releases. Indeed, if anything the accessibility of video as a business tool has allowed companies to seek bespoke answers to communications issues, instead of relying on generic productions.

In this way everything can be tailored to specific problems.

They say, “old news keeps like fish.”

This is as true in the business world as it is elsewhere. Today, because costs have come down and the digital video medium is so flexible, companies no longer need to be satisfied with “old news.” Not only can video updates be released on a regular basis, but the libraries of shots, interviews and graphics become a valuable source of material for future productions and for use on websites, CD-ROMs and in print.

Digitisation fuelled the latest innovation in business communications.

It wasn’t long ago that we marvelled at the desktop publishing that has permitted a flourishing growth in magazine titles, and supported the use of print in all kinds of ways for business communication. In the video productions business too, digital editing led to reduced cost and increased diversity. By breaking every message and every component of that message (be it the written or spoken word, photographs, animated graphs or moving images) into zeros and ones, a myriad of uses becomes possible. For a period this innovation has been exploited within separate industries, it was the gradual emergence of computer based systems, for storage, retrieval and manipulation of words and images with discs, then particularly the CD-ROM that has allowed hybrid production processes to develop. Already the CD-ROM replacement, DVD-ROM, is bringing greater speeds and huge capacities that are making the marriage between the printed word, video and computers even stronger.

Digitisation has resulted in an explosion of choice in all media.

The increased diversity of magazine titles, radio shows and TV channels available to the consumer, is mirrored by the diversity of trade magazine titles and subscription offerings. What is more, the same technology, has at the same time fuelled the broadening diversity of internal communications solutions for large businesses and organisations, and made such solutions financially feasible for medium sized and even small businesses too. Digitisation has made the tools of communication far cheaper; all a business must do therefore is identify and understand each communications problem as it arises, and then choose the most appropriate tool.

No problem, no solution!

Whether it is new media or old media, from a business point of view, they only become valid tools when there is a problem to fix. For example, if lack of awareness amongst staff is leading to poor motivation and preventing healthy cross-fertilisation of ideas, a regular business programme on video could be the solution. If, taking another example, it is found the personnel department is constantly fielding health and safety issues they may find a webzine, or Human Resources Intranet site, for employees could deal with all these matters.

By taking this approach, putting the problem before the solution, we’ll be better able to take in the bewildering choice of communications solutions now available. Solutions which on the one hand may be print, or video, a CD-ROM or a Website, but could include a mix of these media: for example, a video supported in print, a CD-ROM supported in print, or a website backed up with a video and print or live events transmitted by satellite to 10,000 desktops. In addition to mixing the media like this, constant advances and innovations mean there are new hybrids, such as DVD-ROM, which could be a platform for full-screen video-quality programmes, as well as training interactivity and an encyclopaedic depth of information. A DVD-ROM which contains the entire inventory of a business in a digital catalogue could also hold a video-like trainee induction programme, product demonstrations of varying levels of sophistication, and interactive course-books that monitor a users knowledge and feed this, with links to line managers and personnel staff. The Internet might be ubiquitous, and make an unprecedented breadth and depth of information available, it might offer immediacy in a world that wants to get things done NOW, and work as an interactive tool too, but having everything just a mouse click away is a short coming too. And speeds are yet to get close to providing the kind of fluid TV experience we are used to with terrestrial TV, video, cable or satellite.

There is no panacea.

If anything the choices are becoming wider. Whilst the business communication specialists can now use a variety of precision tools we still make excellent use of the stalwarts of our trade. As tools go, print publishing and video production are indefatigable with new solutions simply variations on this theme.

Understanding how and why print and video, staples of the business work, sheds light on the kinds of problems they were designed to fix and indicates where and how organisations should be considering the use of “New Media.”

For example, annual reports and printed statements of financial performance, have become vehicles to promote the business to shareholders, customers and suppliers. These printed reports, still produced by statutory requirement, and still showing off the latest in print design styles, have for some time been expressed in video form too. Video is considered a more user-friendly medium and can switch the attention away from sets of figures and put the attention on the leading individuals who run the business. Over the last few years some printed annual reports have been supported by a CD-ROM and of course those companies that have websites publish their results here too.

Taking another print example, staff newsletters have for decades been recognised as a useful way to keep staff up to date with HR and personal issues. In some instances these regular newsletters or magazines were supported at first by AV presentations, but then by video. Indeed, the regular staff video is considered a vital means of communicating with large numbers of staff where a business is widely dispersed, for example in all kinds of high street retailing activities, from banking, to selling cars, groceries of clothes. Considered to be more than just news, such videos are seen as an important part of regular staff training, advising them of health and safety issues, demonstrating new products and explaining special offers, as well as giving staff incentives to perform well. Viewing these tapes is often mandatory, and is likely to involve an introduction from a line manager, as well as group discussion afterwards. In a learning environment course books are common.

New media has not replaced this versatile, memorable tool, indeed in many ways new media simply offers a diversity of platforms for material that is linear in nature. The benefit of putting a business programmes onto desk top screens in a financial institution is conformity of message and minimal disruption, the advantage of a modular approach lets people view the clips which are most pertinent to them and in small time slots.

Despite the growth of the Internet as a business communications tool the corporate video still makes up over 25% of the business communications production spend in the UK. Whilst this percentage has diminished, the overall size of the business communications pie has grown significantly. We all want to know more investigate more and share more, as quickly as we think it.

In the business environment Bill Gates calls this “Business @ the speed of thought.”

They say we are entering the “Information Age.”

As tools are developed to feed us information, our hunger to know more is increased. The current context is important to consider too. As employees we are told to be prepared for a “Lifetime of Learning,” as well as constant charge. Such attitudes simply feed our growing passion to inform and be informed.

Training videos, both generic and bespoke training packages, have long been the stalwarts of business communicators.

John Cleese was one of the first in the UK to use humour to present business problems and solutions using broadcast TV production standards supported in print; others followed with generic productions of equal quality, though not necessarily playing the humour card. As video production costs dropped, especially as we moved from film to tape production, so opportunities arose for the largest organisations to commission bespoke training packages to deal with issues unique to their business. Here a number of examples can be given, for example training in the nuclear power generation and nuclear reprocessing industries where it is vital that all staff conform to the same high standards; or in customer best practice in the retail sector (whether the product is a financial service, a car or food); sales training has been the subject of many generic and bespoke productions too. The latest production innovation, an easy to use low cost digital camera, will simply increase the likelihood of companies commissioning short videos on all manner of issues, only using higher production values for productions that may have a customer facing aspect to them or will have a diversity of uses and a long shelf life. The analogy is an artist’s study – we can now paint not only with oils or water-colours, but everything in between.

Here, line managers, to justify their investment, need to be able to measure the effectiveness of their chosen information tool. There are many ways to do this, but a simple measure of performance, before then after, is often the best.

CD-ROMs are used in a diversity of ways.

For a simple way to mass distribute a short video presentation a CD-ROM is cheaper than videocassette. CD-ROMs make versatile training tools, but because they can hold such huge amounts of data, have also become invaluable supplements to the product catalogue. CD-ROMs account for 15% of visual communications projects commissioned.

The Internet is not replacement technology; it offers something new which overlaps the corporate brochure and the trade advertisement, while acting as a live means to communicate with users.

Intranets might overlap with staff magazines, but it is the functionality of computer based communications which allows them to serve a different role, for example, increasingly Human Resources Departments are using Intranets not simply to inform employees, but to make everyday records transparent so freeing up HR staff. The Internet, at first nothing more than a hybrid communications link between computers to allow sharing of information has gradually evolved, improved upon and been exploited. Whilst it has invaded all other media, it non the less draws on the familiar, it is a conduit for all that has been done before, as well as producing it’s own language.

It’s still possible to distinguish between a TV programme, a film, a radio show, a newspaper, a video game, a magazine, a telephone call, a face to face meeting and a conference – the edges are becoming blurred as the digital ocean washes across everything.

Though the Internet is just one platform which allows us to send and be sent packets of digitised information. It is fast developing in a way that is neither magazine or video, not the telephone or a fax, to a library, a gallery, or a filling cabinet … but all of these and more.

With over 60 million hosted websites and 176 million Internet users, whether in business or at home, increasingly we are falling back on technical or human information intermediaries when using the Net. We need browsers and search engines to find our way to sites of value. That said, precision searching has far to go, which is where a new breed of intermediary has emerged: “infomediaries,” teams of Net-savvy people who take your search request, just as a telephone call may be taken over the phone by your bank.

Websites, at first little more than corporate vanity sites, have developed to satisfy the differing needs of a business.

As a PR and recruitment tool they are invaluable. E.commerce is a huge growth area too, with the likes of Amazon.com blazing the way to show how books and CDs can be sold and marketed over the Net. Less ambitious though equally important for the businesses concerned, entire product catalogues are made available to buy over the Net via limited access extranets. Other business examples find supply chains monitored and updated on extranets to streamline supply. Here, the diversity of uses of the Net is most clear, it isn’t simply a platform for below the line or above the line advertising, or for in-house communications, but as a medium it can form an important part of the production process.

Together, Internet and Intranet creation now account for 35% of the UK visual communications business.

Whilst not denying its value as a conduit of information, it is just a resource or tool like any other devised and utilised by human kind, from the train to the telephone, the internal combustion engine to the Dictaphone.

Exposure to the same tools and information will result in similar solutions being offered.

Perhaps until recently it was easy to see that a brochure, a conference, a video would provide the solution – today with such a wide number of options it becomes all the more important to consider each communication problem in isolation.

Care needs to be taken to identify the nature of the problem; write precise briefs and so put forward a variety of appropriate solutions. As such solutions are tried and prove effective then the expectations of those commissioning work, as well as the audience change – they may call for the same response to a similar response, or in a climate of change expect further innovations.

In the broadcast arena commission editors want the same programmes for less, because they know hardware costs keep dropping and production innovations have speeded up so reducing the labour costs – I wish the same could be said for having the car serviced.

For cost –effective and fast solutions to broadcasting information (video, audio and data) around the globe the World Wide Web is too slow – it cannot deliver the quality of TV transmission we expect. Instead we can call on the immediacy of transmission by satellite, which these days includes the multicasting of all data, as a TV show or with the interactivity of a CD-ROM. CD-ROMs provide a high level of interactivity, which makes them ideal for training purposes, and they’re good for cheap distribution for large mail-outs too.

Live Events are part of the communications mix we haven’t mentioned yet, but account for 20% of the business. Here, as with the printed word and video production, whilst the tools to create, produce and manage such events have changed, their purpose is just as valid. No technology has replaced the importance and value of bringing people together to take part in an event, have questions answered, and to network. We value the proximity of live events and face to face meetings, we are reassured by seeing someone in the flesh and making value judgements about their aptitudes, experience, manner and approach.

Left to a computer no business relationship would create a long lasting bond – we need exposure to different people, in fact a balance between the familiar and the new, between different mind sets is how to create synergy.

All forms of visual communication must be seen in context, we are social beings who love to interact, love to be informed and entertained, tested and intrigued; there are many different ways of doing this and each tool has its strength.

New ways of working are being developed.

Because computers enable us to share so much suppliers and clients could make everything they do for each other transparent. This is already the case in many sections of the automotive trade where an entire supply chain is revealed to all those who impact upon it in order to make constant improvements which impact on the customer.

In the past the role of the producer in corporate communications was a bit like that of a doctor; the client came to them with a problem which the doctor would diagnose and then propose a treatment. Increasingly patients are being encouraged to understand their condition, the symptoms and the prescribed course of action so that their knowledge can work with that of the doctor. The relationship becomes symbiotic. If clients and producers are to benefit fully from the bewildering choice of solutions and take full advantage of any innovations they need to get under each other’s skin.

I liken e.mail to electronic Ping-Pong, it enables people who are working together – be it across a desk or across the world, to share in the thought process, the strategic thinking process, the creative thinking and the production process as it happens.

Fears over undue client interference have been unfounded as everyone recognises the need to work towards set stages within the production process. The advantage in the creative world is to ensure that all those working on a project share the same vision. The process and convenience in the past has meant that, like locks across a river, client and producer or account handler would fix a date for a presentation then get together to consider the brief, then the proposal, then a treatment, then scripts based on this treatment would be presented, whilst in the meantime budgets and schedules are confirmed. Further meetings are then held to sign off draft and final versions of the creative execution, whether it’s a poster campaign, double-page spread or TV commercial. Today, in many instances the gates that form these locks can be removed to allow the process to flow uninterrupted. In this way the main client can sit like a passenger as the producer drives the project forward, but also a host of support staff can also tap into the information. The result is that the client is able to contribute throughout the process and it is far easier to make slight adjustments to the itinerary without having undue impact on costs or schedule, indeed, there is a far greater chance that the chosen destination will be reached.

Whilst the convergence of print, video and computers may be creating a bewildering choice of hybrids, it is reassuring to see that we are entering traditional territory as the kind of mixed media solutions we have used for many years serve the same purpose.

For example, business programmes distributed by cassette are often supported with printed support materials and questionnaires to generate feedback. Over the last 10 years those companies using satellite distribution for live regular staff programmes have used the telephone to feed questions to a board director or panel of experts. Digital transmission by satellite offers both programme output, if necessary to desktop screen, as well as interactivity of data.

The advantages to distributing such programmes on video cassette, where it is appropriate, for example in the car trade where offers, models and revisions are made frequently up to the minute LIVE satellite transmissions have become a regular feature. Here an interactive element is easy to introduce, originally by taking phone calls and faxes, but increasingly by fielding questions using the spare capacity within the digital transmission. Indeed, in some instances, important business decisions are taken by inviting the audience, whether staff or customers, to vote on various matters which will impact on their business. Here, if the interface looks like something off the Net, it is because the TV graphics skills are similar whether the images end up on a computer screen or on TV.

Reassuringly the process of thinking through a communications problem, preparing a brief and putting forward a solution, remains much the same whether it is a video, a publication, Website or live event, the difference today is that tools we have in our tool box are being improved constantly and new tools are added all the time.

Returning to the analogy of an ocean formed by universal digitisation creating distinct, valuable and durable pockets of expression will remain – our senses, our interest in story telling and our social experience will make TV, radio, the printed word and live performance as valid in the next century as it has in this. At the same time new platforms are coming to life.

If the ocean represents digitisation then different layers within this ocean represent public access Internet sites restricted access (by subscription) extranets and closed access Intranet sites.

If someone can dream it up and there’s a market for it, it will sell. Computers have simplified tasks, so has the Internet. We can learn more, faster and our knowledge can be put to the test. Just as in the past innovations like paper clips or “post it” notes came along to solve problems in the office, so today innovations which make information more effective because it gets wider distribution, more memorable because the audience are tested on what they have learnt will be exploited.

There’s too much on the Net, so search engines improve and we let newswires, personalised pages, and intermediaries do the searching for us.

REFERENCE

Vernon.J (1999) What’s new about new media? Not much. http://www.jonathan.diaryland.com/newmedia1.html (accessed 29 November 2012)

Anderson on meeting student needs

5 Aug 2011

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

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

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

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

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

There is a history of interaction as a theory in education

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

The difference between formal and informal learning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Student–teacher

• Student-student

• Student-content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would this help with retention?

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

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

I loathe this kind of academic language.

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

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

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

My highlights.

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

Clarity counts.

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

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

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

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

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

Anderson (2003) ends with this:

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

Eight years on I feel like sounding him out.

Was he prescient? Where is he now?

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

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

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

REFERENCE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Girl at the Lion d’Or

Having enjoyed ‘Birdsong’ by Sebastian Faulks I not only went on to read many other Faulks’ novels, I also went on to read much of Pat Barker too (for the First World War setting), and Ernest Hemmingway. Indeed, written at the time, HGWells take you to a similar place.

I find myself reading ‘The Girl at the Lion D’Or’.

As is too often the case I realise half way through I have read it before; I should know the characters and recall the events and outcome: I don’t. In fact, I am compelled as much to read it for the story as to satisfy this nagging feeling I know something dreadful or beautiful is about to happen. We get a little of each. And some wonderful interludes, as if Faulk’s wove in some short stories that weren’t going to endure as novels. (There’s a nifty idea).

I want to talk about this lovely story, how Anne comes from Paris to work at the Hotel Lion D’Or. Who and what she is touches many lives, she is a catalyst for misbehaviour, action and change.

But I can’t help but reflect on how I read, or skim read. I simply do not take it in, or rather, my mind leaves it on the surface, like a conversation overheard on a train. My mind, my kind of mind at least, or how it has formed, through a combination of genetics and experience, treats all readying as frippery. The consequence of this is that when I have academic reading to do it takes a huge effort to get anything at all to stick.

Reading on its own is pointless.

Historically I took notes long hand of everything I read. Historically, at school and university this would become an essay, the essay would be discussed in a small tutor group, filed, then looked at again months later for an exam. This kept that knowledge for the required period. Today I take notes through a QWERTY keyboard and upload. I am toying with adding pen to paper again. Then what? So long as I return to the notes and develop them the topic may become a living thing. Best of all, for me at least, are the vibrant tutor groups, or some online forums where I can find them. I need to wrestle with a topic, to agree and disagree, to read more, to seek out my own heroes and villains from further references. Then, and only over a period of months, if not years, do I make any sense of it, do I feel a sense of conviction about what I have picked up, understood or misunderstood.

I’m coming to apperciate why ‘scholarship’ takes time.

I don’t take notes when reading a novel; perhaps this allows me to enjoy the second or third reading. You discover new things, you pick up the detail, nuances that weren’t apparent the first time round. You may even get a better sense of the author’s voice and purpose.

Can anyone recommend a good read?

I feel a novel a week inbetween OU reading and employment would be a good tonic for my mental well being. I beleive I work and think better too, but escaping from it all regularly.

You can immerse yourself in a subject and drown.

Social Media is knowledge sharing – it is learning. Does it require a theoretical rationale?

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

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

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

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

  • Sims (1999) argues that interactivity allows for learner control, adaptation of the learner program, various forms of participation and communication, and as aiding the development of meaningful learning.
  • Lipman (1991) and Wenger (2001) say that interactivity is fundamental to the creation of the learning communities.
  • Jonassen (1991) says that another person’s perspective is a key learning component in constructivist learning theories.
  • Langer (1989) says that interaction develops mindfulness in learners.
    There is a history of interaction as a theory in education
  • Dewey (1916) from inert information from another to your own understanding and interpretation in your head.
  • Holmberg (1989) between tutor and student, whether postal or on the phone.
  • Laurilard (1997) interaction between tutor, content and students.

The difference between formal and informal learning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Student–teacher

• Student-student

• Student-content

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

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

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

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

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

Also Cox (2006) with a nod to John Seely- (2007) (both from week 2 of module H800 of the Masters in Open and Distance Education.

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

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

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

Would this help with retention?

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

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

I loathe this kind of academic language.

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

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

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

My highlights.

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

Clarity counts. It is an important part of communication.

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

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

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

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

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

Anderson (2003) ends with this:

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

Eight years on I feel like sounding him out.

Was he prescient?

Where is he now?

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

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

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

REFERENCE

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

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

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

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

– 21.

John Seely-Brown October 2007 webcast: http://stadium.open.ac.uk/stadia/preview.php?whichevent=1063&s=31

My notes:

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

The transcript of that session:

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

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

Jonassen, D. (1991). Evaluating constructivistic learning. Educational

Technology, 31(10), 28 – 33.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sims, R. (1999). Interactivity on stage: Strategies for learner-designer communication. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 15(3), 257 – 272.

Retrieved May 25, 2002 from: http://cleo.murdoch.edu.au/ajet/ajet15/sims.html

Sutton, L. (2001). The principles of vicarious interaction in computer-mediated communications. Journal of Interactive Educational Communications, 7(3), 223 –

242. Retrieved July 15, 2003 from: http://www.eas.asu.edu/elearn/research/suttonnew.pdf

Wagner, E.D. (1994). In support of a functional definition of interaction.

American Journal of Distance Education, 8(2), 6 – 26.

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

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

We are all the people we have ever been


What image should we use to portray ourselves?

Is there such as thing as best practice? Ought it to be like joining a gym, we have a snapshot taken on a webcam and this current image, no matter how it comes out, becomes who we are?


Do so few of us dislike or distrust what we see when we look at our faces in the mirror each morning?

It has been the subject of research, role play in online education; I’d like to do some of my own.

I began a year ago with this.

I liked the picture, felt it was healthy, robust and confident and confident.

I should have looked at the date on it. August 2004. Happy and sunny days. You age under stress and from the mid-40s it doesn’t take much to add ten years -all that sun in the past, being unwell.

As I write below, his spirit, like mine (I hope) remains that of an enthusiastic twenty-something.

The same occurred with the Elluminate session we had in H800 the other day, the tutor on the webcam (initially in a scratchy black and white image) is not the person who goes by in the General Forum. Are we all guilty of this. Men included? We go with something in our late thirties or early to mid-forties?


I then went with this.

An image I long ago used in my eleven year old blog. I wanted something that was indicative of the content and would last. I’m still inclined to run with this. It is indicative of what I think blogging is all about – the contents of your mind, what you think i.e. you ‘mind bursts’ as I call them on numerous blogs.

Facebook personas sees me in a number of guises

While on Skype I use a image taken with the webcam on the day of an online interview – this is a month ago, so as contemporary as it gets.


I have this image fronting Tumblr taken 21 years ago.

In moments of euphoria having just successfully negotiated a 15m pond of slush on a pair of skis in front of a crowd of early May skiers below the Tignes Glacier, France. The day I proposed to my wife. We’d be ‘going out together’ for three days … we’ve now been together, well 21 years.

In my original diary we could create banner ads to publicise what we had to say to fellow writers. One of these has a spread as long as the contents of my diaries and blog: they run from a 13 year old Head Chorister in cassock and ruffs, though gap, undergrad, to add exec, video director, with four woman I didn’t marry.


Increasingly, I am thinking of using a self-portrait, that this attempt to capture myself through my minds eye is more telling that a photograph.


I could use the drawing I did of a 14 year old

What amuses me most here is how I superimpose these attachments as if I were in a school play, the beard is clearly on the soft face of a pubescent boy – I should have looked at my grandfather for the face I’d get, with the more bulbous nose and pronounced chin.

Talking of which, I find it intriguing that I am the spitting image of my grandfather, that my own children see images of him age 20 and think it has to be me. All that changes as he ages into a 40 and 50 year old is he goes bald, whereas I am thus far limited to a thinning of the crown.

This I’m afraid, if the age of my children in the rest of the picture is something to go by, is some seven years ago 😦

My only reason for picking it is that I haven’t renewed my contact lenses and am inclined, after twenty years wearing them to give up. Maybe laser surgery when I have the cash?
This is contemporary. It doesn’t say who I am, just ‘what’ I am. Wearing a child’s hat (he’s a dad), the headset to record notes onto a digital recorder (for a podcast), a coat he bought for honeymooning in the Alps (we went skiing) 18 years ago …


I have of course not changed much since 1977

It takes me back to the original point – who are we? how do we representative ourselves online in a single image when we are all a sum of a complex of parts?

Is it any wonder that we present multiple selves online, the more so the longer we’ve lived?

I don’t remember my father being around to take this picture. though clearly he did. I do remember the great-big wellies though and the joy of water spilling over the top if I could find a puddle or pond deep enough. And the jumpers knitted by my granny (sleeves always too long). And the trees in the garden I climbed behind. And my sister and brother …

How set in were the learning process by then?

The Dracula Spectacula, People’s Theatre, Newcastle.

The teeth were made from dentine and fitted by an orthodontist.I rather foolishly sharpened the fangs and bit through my own lip on the last night. I had to sing while gargling my own blood. The joy of memories.

  • Could a daily snap taken when looking in the bathroom mirror be used to tag memories from that ‘era’ of your life?

Anderson on meeting student needs online

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

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

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

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

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

There is a history of interaction as a theory in education

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

The difference between formal and informal learning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Student–teacher

• Student-student

• Student-content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would this help with retention?

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

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

I loathe this kind of academic language.

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

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

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

My highlights.

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

Clarity counts.

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

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

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

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

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

Anderson (2003) ends with this:

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

Eight years on I feel like sounding him out.

Was he prescient? Where is he now?

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

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

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

REFERENCE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How do you study if you are both a tutor and a student?

I guess if you are a chemistry tutor and you’re studying e-learning the two are complementary but you cannot, be both tutor and student of the same course (though interestingly this has/is occurring in our module with a tutor absent the OU failing to accommodate).

It’s rather making me think that student as tutor is absolutely possible.

Why not? All it requires is leadership and initiative. I don’t see tutors as subject matter experts. Can you cater for everyone? In communications you need to know your audience. Writers are meant to think of their reader as one person, not millions. How should teachers/tutors think? Of student, or students? Does it matter anymore?

Can we, knowing or indulging ourselves, choose from a plethora of ways into a subject?

I have to wonder, thinking in extremes, why we don’t have tutor groups by gender, by generation, even by profession … let alone our current professional status. Would for example all those working for the armed services benefited from being in a group of their own?

And how do we make such a choice?

Too late if you buy a book, even read a sample, only to find the rest of the content doesn’t deliver.

What about a course?

You pay the fees for a module only to feel or realise a week or so on that it is going to disappoint all the way to the end?

Do you choose by Brand?

Do you choose by awarding body?

And what say do we have?

Can we play-act the model online student?

Would it help to have such an image and then be this person?

Can we assume ourselves into a level of comprehension what we haven’t yet reached and as a result of such aspirations and performance become this more informed and ‘educated’ person?

With an interest and some training in sport and developing young elite athletes I’ve studied Long Term Athlete Development. With a sport, let alone studying, we can group children by gender and biological age. When or where do such groupings or any groupings become difficult to create, or politically incorrect to create? Should not institutions go to greater lengths to group people scientifically?

And to mix these groups up as we go along, if only to change and balanced the learning opportunities?

This is the OU’s show, their party. They are hosting an event, or series of events or have we simply taken a few steps beyond getting a box of books and CDs on the doorstep at the start of a module … to the set of railway tracks that is the like a cartoon, are laid before our eyes as each new week approaches? Who ‘owns’ this course? I get know sense of that, or someone leading. The tutors/authors of the course left years ago. Perhaps this is obvious and given the topic and the speed of change in e-learning is detrimental. I wonder, if given time, more ‘natural’ tutor groupings would form in the national forums of ‘General Discussions’ and the Café from which break-out tutor groups could be constructed (or they do?) I wonder if the solution is in the ways resources are presented, that there need to be multiple ways into a topic. That once size never did fit all.

That ideally we would each have a personal tutor, that all learning would be one to one and tailor to our needs, as they are and as they change … and as we are changed by the process and anything else that is going on around us.

Do we all want a take-away, or a pot-lunch?

The set menu and if so as a school dinner, or from a top restaurant? Home cooking or our own cooking?

Might I say with H800 are getting the ‘set menu,’ i.e. the choice is limited. All I’m discussing here is choice; the next point would be the size of helpings. How do we respond to either being hungry as a wolf (read everything) or not hungry at all (graze nonchalantly doing the bare minimum?) The answer, as I found in H808, was to have plenty of moderated activities in the General Discussion, Café and Supplementary Activity Forums … where like minds could meet, where if you found you had time or wanted to make time, you could get involved in a different group and therefore benefit from an alternative dynamic. I have found that with groups, even more so away from the OU, that are global in scope, that you find groupings that are topic specific and where you can, whenever you like, find a conversation to engage with that adds to your knowledge.

It is a vital part of the learning process I believe, where you form opinions and develop ideas as a result of your engagement, the only issue being that your voice comes out of the tips of your fingers rather than your mouth, which rather suggests we’d all have been better off communicating to our parents and siblings at home via a QWERTY keyboard from an early age so we had these surprisingly necessary skills in place.

Perhaps, as there appears to be so much inclination, whether desire or otherwise, to shift towards the Oxbridge tutorial system as a model, (small tutor groups), might not we also have junior, middle and senior common rooms?

Might we not also have a variety of virtual colleges? And taking just one idea from this … ought we not to have more than one tutor, even within a module, perhaps a different module for each TMA?

e-learning is a term compromising one letter representing a physical property of technology (e for electronic)

I wonder of e-learning as a term will last, like email?

What’s happened to ‘new media?’ I guess it’s no longer new. What’s happend to ‘web-based learning?’ I guess the web is there, like air, so we don’t need to refer to its existance, it just is. And so on to ‘online learning’ which at the OU has usrped ‘open learning.’

I like this thought:

‘Whereas education is by definition a multi-faceted activity understood to involve a variety of players and activities – teachers and teaching; students and studying; institutions and structures, information, knowledge and, it is hoped, learning.

e-learning is a term compromising one letter representing a physical property of technology (e for electronic) and the hoped-for outcome (learning) for one participant in the interaction.

Given the power of language to constrain our thinking, is our current circumscribed terminology making it increasingly difficult to keep in mind and focus on elements of this expanding activity that, while not readily apparent in the term ‘e-learning’ itself, must be understood and included when establishing policy and researching the phenomenon?’

(Melody Thompson, 2007 in Conole and Oliver, 2007:187)

REFERENCE

Conole, G and Oliver, M (2007) Research in E-Learning

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