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

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

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

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

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

Modules 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Task

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

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

The Outcome

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

Then I add an image or two.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fig. 6. In a word

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

On verra (we will see)

USEFUL LINKS

Wordle

Date duration calculator

REFERENCE

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

M-learning ‘any time, any where, any place’

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 almost 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 storng. (distance learning)
The sample was purposive.


Four key areas:

  1. Learning
  2. Social Interaction
  3. Entertainment
  4. 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 devies
  • 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 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)
17 Distinct uses of mobile devices (ibid, 2011:28)

  1. The three most intensive uses are very clearly sending text messages, browsing websites and listening to music … and reading e-news. (2011:28)
  2. 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):
  3. Permanency of taking notes: paper is easily lost
  4. Multi-purpose: you can take your work/entertainment with you
  5. Can combine work with a run with listening to a podcast
  6. Podcasts give access to unique historical/scientific content
  7. Suits auditory learners
  8. Closer relationship between students and teacher
  9. Multimedia in one small device is a time-saver for teachers
  10. Instant documentation of whiteboard notes
  11. Taking photos of overhead slides
  12. Help with learning disabilities
  13. Alternative news source/breaking news/immediate first hand reports
  14. Helps maintain a public diary with a community dimension
  15. Quick way to learn
  16. Gets you outdoors
  17. 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 ‘producers’ 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 books podcasts
  • Being part of micro-blogging communities e.g. Twitter
  • Growing 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 producer. 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

Diffusion of Innovations – Picking this up a year ago at the start of the Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) I couldn’t relate to it.

I hadn’t enough experience of ‘e-moderators’, the term Gilly Salmon uses for Tutors (also Associate Lecturers). A year on I appreciate the complexity of the role, and potentially the considerable demand on their time and efforts to help us students sing – it can’t always happen. If we are a choir, then at times we have to learn to practice in small groups in our own time.

‘E-tivities’ is a must read at any time. You may not agree with the five-stage approach to online learning but I’d go this route until you know better from experience; i.e. play a game that has rules and works before you make up your own.

It should be a game. It should be playful.

It can be. It often is. I don’t tinker away at the QWERTY keyboard like this if I didn’t enjoy it; as Andrew Sullivan puts it, this is jazz. These ideas the latest from John Seely Brown. Remember in his lecture to the Open University he described it as ‘Bringing Coals to Newcastle’ (Week 1 or 3, H800).

That is respect for the Open University who remain the leaders worldwide.

As Lord Putnam, the OU Chancellor put it, ‘It’s as if the Open University was waiting for the Internet’. From TV and Radio, with books, videos and CDs sent out computer-based and now e-learning was and is pioneered right here.

More of this then.

And I’ve made a start on this, the seminal John Seely Brown publication:

I do like a good read, something cover to cover (though these days as a e-book, it does make highlighting and note taking massively easier). And we want to share what we think about what these guys say? I put my notes in the OU e-portfolio My Stuff so could/can share pages from there. Just ask.

I can’t be bothered with this:

I read three chapters nd skimmed through the rest.

I was working in a Brighton-based web-agency in 2000. Ten years ago I would have sung from it. A decade on I find it vacuous hype that occasionally gets it right but often does not.

That said, there are books that I dismiss the first time I look, but can be brought back to sing its praises. Another must read, especially for H807 ‘Innovations in E-learning’ is Roger’s ‘Diffusion of Innovations‘.

Every innovation is perceived as seismic, like a Tsunami it washes over everything.

 I like the digital ocean metaphor …

In relation to H800 : technology enhanced learning  and the Week 1 activities the introduction and final chapter of Stephen Lax’s book covers the communications innovations of the last century + enough to inform.

And whilst this is the topic for H807 ‘Innovations in E-learning’ I recommend this. I like him so much I bought copies to give to friends; I don’t know if they were grateful.

Is it available on Kindle?

 

The way of the web and all technology? We just don’t know what’s going to happen next …

Tim Berners-Lee speaking at the Home Office in...

Tim Berners-Lee speaking at the Home Office in Westminster, London. His face is covered by letters from a slide. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I have in John Naughton’s own words, spent the best part of two hours ‘bouncing’ about Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web in search of a vital fact relating to this H800 task (no.3)

 

Technology-enhanced learning: practices and debates

 

This concerns the Gutenberg, books and libraries – I failed, though I had a joyous time first in my own blog (started 1999, has the information I require, not tagged, poor archiving, couldn’t find it, read loads of other stuff I’d forgotten about), then via Google and too often in Wikipedia, all to find out something on the Bodliean Library that is in a file in the shed and in my head (somewhere).

 

On visiting the Bodliean in the early 17th century I believe this person said that if he read all the books then held he’d know everything or some such. Do we suppose that the 3 million+ entries in Wikipedia are the sum total of world knowledge?

 

Never mind

 

Any answers?

 

Blogging for me ended 25 years of keeping a journal in a hard back book. The complete undoing of my life with books will be further undone with the purchase of an e-Reader (a Kindle, I get one tomorrow).

 

There could be no libraries without books and people to read them, nor universities that gather around the library’s finite resource. With the digital ‘liberation’ of books will traditional libraries and universities go the way of the OU too?

 

Hyperbole is symptomatic of invention

 

I could in time drill through a year of reflection on great innovations from the book to the telegraph, courtesy of H807 ‘Innovations in E-learning’ and some extra reading I did over the summer on radio, film and TV, Edison and the phonograph and light bull.

 

Exaggeration reflects a human quest from improvement, and good sales talk.

 

It may distract thinkers from considering the wider consequences of technology change – though I suppose we are no better able to stop the future as Luddites exactly 200 years ago.

 

I won’t go along with some ‘Law of Technology’ unless there is some scientific and statistical evidence proof attached to it. It’s hardly Newton’s Law of Motion. I do buy the bell-curve elaborated fully in Roger’s seminal ‘Diffusion of Innovations.’

 

Nor do I buy Naughton’s idea that childhood ever ended at seven or twelve or fourteen.

 

All to be discussed elsewhere perhaps? The H800 cafe or OU Blog.

 

I’m 50 in September. My late grand-father told me to ‘enjoy it while you’re young.’

 

He’s not around to see that I stretched his advice by a couple of decades. He left school at started work on his 14th birthday; did his childhood end that day? I’ve just been reading about Lady Anne Clifford. When her father died she was 15. Her battle and wishes to secure her inheritance started that day. This is 1605. She’d had a governess and tutor. Did she grow up that day or age 13 years 2 months when she joined the court of Queen Elizabeth? Journalist are generalists. They don’t need to stick to facts, or cite sources or even stand up to peer review.

 

Is this the dumbing down of the OU or education’s necesary slide into informality?

 

A product of the age, where we Twitter and network, forum thread, then use the same style to write assignments.

 

Innovators do it because they see a need and feel a desire to come up with an answer

 

For some it makes money (Bill Gates, Thomas Eddison) for others it does not (Tim Berners-Lee). Academicsdo it for reputation, and status (and indirectly salaries/stipends pension), whereas entrepreneurs do it to generate wealth.

 

The problem they solve both is a turning point at least, where one story ends and another begins.

 

H.G.Wells thought we’d all be flying around in lighter than air dirigibles rather than aeroplanes – predictions are fraught.

 

He got it right plenty of times though.

 

We may think that social networking has exploded upon us all of a suddent with Facebook. A BBC radio series on the history of Social Networking took as back to the 1970s. It reminded me of Minitel in France. There was (and still is) MySpace, remember. And Friends Reunited? Are you there yet? More like Friends Disjointed now.

 

To develop and maintain relationships in a fractured world but it is the personal relationship that we want with those who govern us that is having radical consequences for people in nations like Tunisia, Iran, China and Egypt in this linked in world.

 

Are you Linked In? Will it work so well with 300 million signed up, as it does with 90 million? Does it work? What is it for?  What are the unknown consequences? I’d better not say it, that would spoil the next decade.

 

Remember all that talk of the leisure time we’d had? Longer holidays and three-day weeks because our lives would be so much easier to manage? Instead of working 9-5 we work through our sleep (indeed if you’ve read my early entries you’ll realise that I rate rather highly my mind does for me once I am asleep).

 

Enough

 

Sleep

 

(Which will be a new challenge with a Kindle on the pillow)

 

Reinvention’s the word!

The diffusion of innovations according to Roge...

The diffusion of innovations according to Rogers (1962). With successive groups of consumers adopting the new technology (shown in blue), its market share (yellow) will eventually reach the saturation level. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Isn’t ‘re-invention’ the word? (Rogers, 2005. P. 114 -115)

 

Not wholesale repurposing, but as Rogers puts it ‘It should be acknowledged that rejection, discontinuance and re-invention frequently occur during the diffusion of an innovation and that such behaviour may be rational and appropriate from the individual’s point of view.’ (Rogers, p114 2002)

 

I wonder how my experience might have been with a group of colleagues or friends, signing up together … but might this too ‘spoil the party.’ And how over a longer period fellow students would be emailing and messaging and getting on the phone … let alone meeting up.

 

This fascinates me primarily because I am convinced that collaboration, sharing, discussion and so on is crucial to a deeper learning outcome.

 

But does this not have to be down to the drive of the individual and permitted by the institution they belong to?

 

How much motivation can others really offer or be expected to offer?

 

If neither a carrot or stick will work with adult learners, especially in a online environment, then what do you do?

 

‘You can take a horse to the trough, but you can’t make it drink.’

 

As I’m about to take a course on the Psychology of Sport as a Senior Swimming Coach I may gain some further insights into waht motivates people to do something and how outsiders can influence this in a positive way.

 

And just because we’re invited to drink from this trough once, dos not mean we will do it again, or often or with enthusiasm. Our moods will wax and wane, or commitments beyond the course will impinge.

 

Deep learning, as I’ve learnt, benefits from, even requires a rapport with one or several others at various levels of understanding – a Subject Matter Expert (SME) or experts, a tutor, a couple of fellow students on the course, and perhaps someone more junior who can be in turn mentored or tutored by us (first years being buddied by a second year, a post-grad student supervising a fresher).

 

How much this mix can be set by what little the OU or other Distance Learning Provider knows about an individual is quite another matter.

 

Do you run a call-centre like team of facilitators/moderators … or aspire to the one-to-one relationship of tutor or governess to student mimicking some land-owning/aristocratic model of the distant past?

 

 

Or is this something for a DPhil?

 

A free-for-all would create imbalances, inevitably … for the institution. But whose experience are we prioritising here?

 

Whilst a balance must be found, if the best outcomes are to give tutors and SMEs much more time online to forge relationships then this should be – a good coach attracts the best athletes and attracts the interest of other coaches. How does she do that? (Expertise, training and personality … enthusiasm, putting the athlete at the centre of things)

Perhaps by pursuing ‘educational social networking’ institutions are shooting themselves in the financial foot?

 

The time put in to make a freer networking between students, tutors and SMEs, with students in different time zones and different priorities would be prohibitive. Undergraduates studying on campus, in a homophilous cohort, with fewer worries (other than debt) don’t know how fortunate they are to have this opportunity to study, probably for the only time, before the life of the wider world impinges.

 

REFERENCE

 

Rogers, E,M. Diffusion of Innovations. (2005) 5th Ed.

 

The e-learning professional – H800 (Masters in Open and Distance Education)

The podcast H808 e-learning SMEs.

(Makes them sound like a prog rock band of the 1960s. Perhaps they were?)

[V. Long version here. 4,000 words +. 1,000 or under in H808 Tutor Forum.

Edited versions in the next 24 hours/couple of days in EduBlogs at www.mindbursts.edublogs.org]

Week One

I may be a professional swimming coach (amongst several things), but my head coach told me ‘I think too much.’ Think less and get the athletes to do more. Keep it simple. If there is any context however where thinking is the currency, literally if we are talking professionalism, then the more I think the more professional I become.

(Or not).

Many would say that a 3,000 word blog entry is ‘unprofessional.’

I call it shared reflection, the ‘uncut version.’ It is the outcome of over five hours thinking on the topic. Hours banked. Ideas turned into cash. By definition when I have made two years worth of regular deposits I may call myself and even be defined as an ‘e-learning professional’ with the MA to suggest I have joined that club, and a job that for the remuneration I receive makes me a professional rather than a wishful thinking wannabe.

It is unprofessional as a post-graduate student to be flippant and/or verbose.

A professional would keep this down to 500 words, yet I am stretching it to 3,000. The uncut version. Reflection in action. My mind at work. Not the athlete sharing a few ‘mots justes’ after a successful race, but the race itself and all the training before hand. The choice words, bullet point form only with an abridged commentary goes into my Tutor Group Forum. Under 250 words there, is my targert. Under 1,000 words per OU blog had been my thinking too. Blown that then.

Watching the TV I fall asleep.

Listening to the radio (i.e. any audio) I do something else – I’d be distracted anyway, I have to.

In an effort to get into my head the points being made by OUr E-learning Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) I first read the transcripts provided and then listened to the podcast while reading the text.

What shocked me was how much I had missed.

I do less than skim read it appears, all I must do is to look at patterns and shapes. No wonder I learn so little when I do nothing more than read.

Lesson learnt?

This isn’t an ‘airport thriller’ I can read at break-neck speed chaisng the protagonist as he is in turn chased; this requires a different kind of reading.

It requires effort.

I must work with the text, make notes. Just highlighting choices words and sentences isn’t enough either. Effort I can do. It is consistent effort unless I am working under exam conditions where I struggle. There is always something more interesting to read.

Historically, when successful academically, it has been a huge effort and very time consuming for me. I have to take notes (long hand). Then I have to take notes on the notes. I have to make lists, take quotes and re-order the material. I may still not make sense of it. I need to chase up a few references. I need to find my own patterns. I need to discuss it. Argue about it, agree and disagree. And then, gathering up a wad of papers and scraps of paper the whole lot needs to compost for a few months. Then, and only then, might I start to ‘get it,’ and have something constructive and original to say.

Do any of us have this kind of time anymore? Did we ever?

(My late father, my daughter and a friend, a partner in one of the world’s leading law firms, all have/had photographic memories. They would have read the transcript and been able to pick out its salient points after the first swift reading. Not so me, not so us?)

The process you see playing out here is an attempt to mulch the content, slow cook it and hope that I can achieve something in five hours that would normall require five months.

Keep cooking.

The second time round with the SME podcast I first worked with the text, highlighting points and generally trying to get my head around it. If you’ve come across Jakob Nielsen’s ‘Writing for the Web,’ this is what I did – isolating sentences and ideas, creating headings, sub-headings and bullet points, in a word ‘chunking. In fact, I begin to get close to doing what Richard Northridge recommends in the ‘OU Guide to Studying’ (1990) note taking, creating concept cards and then even looking for links and patterns in the text itself.

Lesson learnt?

This takes time and requires effort. I’m not great on effort. My modus operandi is (or has been) to take in volumes of material, but if this is only at a surface level no wonder I am often more frustrated than informed.

Lesson learnt?

Less is more. Rather than chasing a reference, another report or book, I need, at first, to ensure that the text I have in front of me has been dissected, not consumed, not afforded nothing more than a passing glance, but pulled apart, then reconstructed.

Lesson learnt?

Effort

Not the expected outcome of this simple task – my faltering approach to learning laid bare, but a valuable lesson at the start of the module.

At last I’m listening to the podcast.

I made myself think, made myself listen, I ‘sat forward’ (the technical term for interacting, for engagement.) I made myself read and take notes, made me list the contrasting ideas, the arguments for and against, the justifications … and to cluster these ideas and adjust my own thoughts accordingly based on my experience.

I had something to think about as I listened.

Do I have anything in common with these e-learning professionals in relation to assumptions and aims?

  • Do I have different understandings of what it means to be an ‘elearning professional’?
  • Is there a distinct elearning profession, or is elearning simply an aspect of other professions?
  • The profession of teacher?
  • The profession of a university lecturer or academic?
  • The profession of a trainer or staff developer or a human resources developer in private corporate bodies?
  • Is there an elearning professional?
  • And should I be describing my job as that of an elearning professional?

My short reply, given my background in sports coaching, is simple.

  • If you are paid you are a professional.
  • If you are the athlete and not paid you are an amateur.
  • If you’re the coach and not paid you are a volunteer.

Therefore, if someone is good enough and experienced enough (or simply good at selling themselves and their ideas) – and they are remunerated for their efforts, then they are a professional.

Rebecca Addlington is a professional athlete. Bill Furness, her coach, is a professional too.

At my swimming club all the swimmers are amateur, though some through bursaries to pay for County and Regional development training are by definition quasi-professional as they are receiving benefits if not in cash, then in kind. Some of the coaches and I do not define myself as a swimming coach; it’s a hobby that’s got out of hand.

I have ‘put in the hours.’

(Which I can qualify by saying I have put in the appropriate hours. i.e. time will not make you a professional, the enduring focus of your efforts will)

One of the key themes of the podcast made by each of the speakers is that a professional has put in the time.

They have put in the effort, gained experience that is directly or indirectly relevant to their e-learning expertise – and by dint of this expertise (and being paid by the OU, for books and reports, lectures and workshops too perhaps) they are all professionals.

At the swimming club many of us (its the biggest club in the South of England) have earned our places through years of experience, gaining qualifications and attending regular courses (CPD) to retain a licence to teach or coach aquatics. Many of us, paid or not, can call ourselves ‘professionals.’

Just as I’ve reduced my core thought to that of the contract between a professional and an amateur, by picking out the ideas of each speaker and doing something similar a number of interesting points regarding what it means to be an ‘e-learning professional’ emerge.

In this see-saw of ideas the protagonists have a habit of changing places.

By defining professional we should also think what it means to be unprofessional.

I’ve allowed this dance to play out as it leaves me with an image of a professional being circled by the professional wannabe, the unprofessional (as yet), the layperson, the naive, virgin student. A mass of non-professionals clamoring around the few.

The points and arguments frequently fall into another diametrically opposed set: the qualitative vs. quantitative, an objective point vs. the subjective, a value judgment vs. the facts. Everything overlaps – a Venn Diagram of the points would show sets within sets.

Adrian Kirkup

· Amateur vs. Professional (there are many highly ‘professional’ amateurs)

· Ineffective vs. effective.

Robin Mason

· Hasn’t done it for long vs. been doing it for a long time

· Undergraduate vs. PhD (A sub-set of the above)

· Hasn’t put in the hours vs. has put in the hours (more of the same)

· Immature vs. Mature (a variation of the same. Though professionalism is not a consequence of maturity)

· Inexperienced vs. Experienced.(Experience that takes time to acquire, and a certain manner to be effective)

Gill Kirkup

· A new field vs. an established field. (Disagree. Though a new field of subset of a professional activity would be definably professional).

· New vs. Established. (as above)

· No established standards vs. abides by general and specific received standards.

· Acting alone or part of a professional association.

· Part of the UK Higher Education Academy or not. (a subset of the above)

· Part of a legitimate community or not. (as above)

· Committed vs. Uncommitted.

· Respectful vs. Disrespectful.

· Respect for the individual learner, incorporating research and scholarship, the development of learning communities online is a hugely strong component in professional elearning practice. (successfully combines the subjective and unquantifiable with the quantifiable and objective)

· Juvenile and professional vs. professional only if matured. (as Robin Mason)

· Unlicensed vs. Licensed.

Robin Goodfellow

· Genuine vs. not genuine.

· Unrecognised vs. Recognised.

· Inexperienced vs. Experienced.

· Independent vs. tied (to government or a business).(disagree)

· Technical foundation vs. no technical foundation

· No need for a label, e-learning professional vs. professional enhancer. (strongly agree)

Chris Jones

· Takes time vs. no time.(as Robin Mason and Robin Goodfellow. You have to put in the time to become a professional. Which I guess applies as much to the professional criminal, as the Professional lawyer. Little p, Big P- see below)

· Part of the mainstream vs. Specialist. (disagree)

· ‘Lone Ranger’ and early stages of innovation … vs. early majority and established (themes of Rogers)

· Enthusiasts vs. the not interested. (strongly agree)

· Society and the professionalisation of modern life (quotable)

· Sport in the 20th century and professional vs. amateurs in sport

· Traditional and modern professionals

· Autonomous vs. dependent

· Trustworthy vs. (spin/PR/Branding/Agenda)

· Not part of a trade association or governing body vs. part of such an association

· Generalist vs. specialist

· An outside vs. part of something

· Formalised standards vs. none

· Unmonitored vs. monitored

· Is there a distinct elearning profession, or is elearning simply an aspect of other professions?

· Little ‘p’ pr big ‘P.’

Jonathan Vernon (moi)

· Doesn’t look the part vs. looks the part.

· Lacks form vs. has form.

· Self-taught vs. ‘done a course.’

· Qualified (with the piece of paper to prove it) vs. Unqualified (however expert they may be).

Some thoughts on the points identified above

It is worth reflecting on Robin Mason’s point about ‘putting in the hours.’

The suggestion that genius and expertise requires 10,000 hours of effort is no urban myth. A study carried out at the Berlin Music Conservatoire identified three groups of graduates. Asked to estimate how many hours of practice and playing each student had put in since picking up an instrument they were then divided into three distinct categories: up to 4,000 hours, up to 8,000 hours and up to 10,000 hours. The first became teachers, the second category got places in orchestras whilst the tiny number who had put in 10,000 hours (takes around 10 years to do this) were most likely to be the solo artists, the concert pianists, the mavericks, the Vanessa Maes and Mozarts. Whilst all these categories are professionals, they are paid for their skills, the use of the word ‘professional’ to distinguish those who are expert, who have attained a certain standard, would in my view apply to the musicians who have made it into a top orchestra – with the soloists in a category beyond the ‘professional.’ Our ‘OU H808 E-learning SME professionals’, given the decades of thought they have put into what we now define as ‘e-learning’, have been part of this ‘orchestra’ of professionals for some time, and who knows, we may have a Mozart amongst them. Personally, I’ve not read enough from any of them yet to know any better. I look forward to hearing what they have to say and how they say it.

Interestingly, Robin Mason returns repeatedly to a theme of time passing, of gaining, requiring or acquiring maturity of thought. Though I feel as if I am clutching at ideas in an amorphous cloud here, my sense is that whether it is professional with a big P or a little p, that the word ‘maturity’; might say it all.

What does maturity imply?

Growing up, lessons learnt, age, growth, adult hood, a way of behaving, able to fit in and contribute to a community and so on.

I disagree with Gill Kirkup

If I have understood her correctly regarding her suggesting that only in an established field is something professional whilst in a new field this is not possible. We can all think of (or at least imagine) an unprofessional ‘professional.’ The corrupt lawyer, the doctor struck off the medical register, the TV food expert who is not a doctor at all (and so a sham professional).

In 2000 I would have defined myself, as some of the panel here would have done, as what is now termed an ‘e-learning’ professional. After fifteen years in corporate communications, training and learning, creating linear, then non-linear and ultimately web-based materials the companies and government department for whom I worked through various production companies had to see me as ‘professional.’ I hadn’t done the post-graduate studying, but I’d learnt through observation and experience (first carrying video kit into the changing rooms of a nuclear power plant age 17 assisting with a training film for BNFL at Sellafield).

Interestingly, I don’t currently consider myself to be an e-learning or a learning professional and even with the MA I hope to gain in 2011 I will by my own definition not be a professional until I am being paid for my expertise.

To use a horse-racing term I lack ‘form.’

I’m literally out of the race (for now).

Being studious here and building my confidence is part of the plan to regain the ‘professional’ tag.

Does a barrister on retirement cease to be a professional lawyer?

Socio-econonmically he/she would still be defined as a ‘professional’ would they not?

I agree however, very much, with Gill Kirkup’s views regarding ‘respect’ and her definition of an e-learning professional within the academic community.

Respect for the individual learner, incorporating research and scholarship, the development of learning communities online is a hugely strong component in professional elearning practice.’

(This, for me, successfully combines the subjective and unquantifiable with the quantifiable and objective. i.e. you can be a professional Professional).

I disagree with Robin Goodfellow’s view that a professional must be independent vs. tied (to government or a business). If we look beyond e-learning professionals and academia it would be quite wrong to say that someone is not professional simply because they represent the interests of an organisation or government department, let alone are being paid to take a certain stance or have a strongly held view (left or right wing politically, religious or atheist and so on).

If nothing else, I believe I have shown above that there is a natural dichotomy, if not a debate even an implicit conflict, between views on whether a person, or institution, or field of study, can be defined as professional or not, worthy of study or not.

It is engagement in such a debate where a professional proves their credentials.

A professional is a match for anyone, whilst the unprofessional would not play by the rules, make excuses, bow out…

Dare I imply that all the above are differentiating between the educated and uneducated?

Is it so black and white? Students at school, scholars as Edwardian’s would have defined them, and undergraduates, graduates too, in terms of education can never be defined as ‘professional.’

Or can they?

The government pays students to go to college, to stay on in secondary school after the age of 16 – does not this make them pros, like a boy of a similar age getting paid to play football in an academy, they literally ‘turn pro.’

I agree with Robin Goodfellow that there is ‘need for a label’, that what is currently the e-learning professional may be the ‘professional enhancer ‘of the future if the UK HE Academy has their way (though I doubt the term will stick). Just as Robin was (we were) once web-based learning professionals, or learning professionals, or professionals in education…

Big P, little p (Chris Jones) is the most memorable expression of an idea in relation to the professional Professional that I take from this and a worthy talking point. And 2,500 words in I could sum it up with a Twitter count.

Professional is an adjective and a noun.

Anyone can be described as ‘professional,’ (adjective) by dint of their behaviour and experience, however to be a ‘professional’, (noun), various criteria should be met. Depending on how your measure up, by Chris Jones’s definition, you are either Big or Little P.

(I can think of other categories where a similar way of looking at things could be applied, for example, ‘engineer’. The person who fixes my washing machine may call himself an ‘engineer,’ but Isambard Kingdom Brunel was an ‘Engineer’. A sports psychologist is no longer allowed to call themselves such, they are sports scientists. So Psychologist, if not professional, not has a legally binding form of expression and use).

I disagree however with Chris Jone’s view that Professionals (big P you notice) have to be specialists whilst implicitly, if they are professional at all (little p) they are not, or unlikely to be so if they are part of the mainstream.

Or do I?

(I’m changing my mind as I write this, reflecting on a matter tends to do this. You twist yourself in so many knots and then find you are looking in the opposite direction – and happy to do so)

Onwards

Is there an implicit elitism here that makes me uncomfortable, an obvious them and us?

As a Professional I am not ‘part of the mainstream’ ?

Yes, that’s it.

You see the ‘mainstream’ is the population, everyone, in the universe that we are discussing. Professionals are of the mainstream, of society, even if they are a subset community within the broader community.

The likes of Richard Dawkin and Stephen Hawkings are ‘professional Professionals’ by their engagement with the world, not because of an elitist, hide-themselves away hermit like attitude to knowledge acquisition. Do Simon Schama and Neil Ferguson fall into the same category of professionalism?

Be published and damned, broadcast and be damned even more?

But you don’t have to be famous to be Professional (though I dare say you’d cease to be professional if you became infamous).

Or have I been making a mistake through-out this internal debate … this reflection – that we have always only been discussing Big P professionalism ONLY as part of ‘the whole thing,’ i.e. the specific category of the ‘e-learning Professional’ and just as this time round I haven’t given a moment’s thought to ‘e-learning’ as a term, I have nonetheless unnecessarily dissected the term ‘professional.’

I’m yet to click through the OED online.

I daren’t. It may be my undoing.

Back to my idea of a Venn Diagram.

If ‘professionals’ is the universe then we have two subsets, Professionals (Big P) and professionals (little p) (the noun only). Far smaller, and intersecting both these sets, we have ‘e-learning.’ There are in e-learning little P and Big P professionals.

Still with me?

But there are also non-professionals, and even  the unprofessional to consider. Can they also be defined as Non-professionals (Big N) and Unprofessionals (Big U).

Final thoughts

Might a professional be defined as someone with ‘qualified confidence in their field?’

Not finished yet

I’ve got a Venn Diagram to draw, some visualising to do.

Can a loner be a professional?

I enjoyed Chris Jones’s point about the ‘Lone Ranger’ that in early stages of innovation there are maverick, loners having a go at something new way ahead of anyone else – think Dr Emmett Brown in ‘Back to the Future’ tinkering away at the construction of a time-travelling automobile. Are such people professionals or even professional? Does this ‘odd-ball’ behaviour disenfranchise you from the professional community, even if you have the mind the size of a planet?

A consultant escapes the hospital ward for a couple of years to undertake research. Just because they are beavering away on their own, being a ‘Lone Ranger’ doesn’t disqualify them from the category of ‘Professional,’ (Big P), or even ‘professional Professional’ (little p, Big P).

Dare I suggest that our panel of e-learning experts are ‘professional e-Professionals’ ?

I don’t even begin to delve into the thinking behind innovation diffusion. This is an entire module in its own right. It is called ‘Innovations in E-learning’, or H807 for short.

For more read ‘Diffusion of Innovations’ E.M.Rogers. (2005) 5th edition.

Nor am I going to teach the definition ‘e-learning.’

Is there a professional ‘look.’

Forgive me if I make a comparison here between the need for barristers to put on the appropriate garb in court and so look Professional with a big p, compared to those wishing to be called professional and seen as Professional who don’t look the part. Poolside as coaches it is expected that all teachers are appropriately dressed in the club colours and well groomed – this looks professional. There was once a time when teachers wore a jacket and tie, so looked professional like fellow professionals such as lawyers and doctors. Don’t academic look the part, ‘look professional’ in their gowns and mortar-boards?

And having addressed ‘looks’ can someone sound ‘professional?

Think how a director chooses actors to play a role. Look at Michael Cane in ‘Educating Rita,’ is this the stereotypical professional Professor?

Another discussion, but coming from corporate communications we have been through exercises of using authentic presenters (people who work at the place) compared to buying in ‘professional’ presenters. To do justice to the message in the TV medium the professional broadcasters were far better at putting over the points the client wanted to make.

As I said, another discussion, a different thread.

P.S. It would be unprofessional to post such a long entry into a tutor forum, where a 500 word, even a 250 word version will be posted (the bullet points, or just my thoughts on the key bullet points … or just where I strongly agree or disagree).

Lesson Learnt ?

Professionals put in the time and effort, and follow rather than ignore guidelines for the community in which they operate.

It strikes me that academics, like creatives, are more interested in reputation and recognition than money.

Is it not striking that not one of our panel mention it?

Can you be a professional without it?

And what about spelling and grammar?

The ability to communicate. Have I mentioned that. Can the professional spell?

I may be a swimming coach (amongst several things), but my head coach told me ‘I think too much.’

English: Jakob Nielsen, web usability consultant.

English: Jakob Nielsen, web usability consultant. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Think less and get the athletes to do more. Keep it simple. If there is any context however where thinking is the currency, literally if we are talking professionalism, then the more I think the more professional I become.

 

(Or not).

 

Many would say that a 3,000 word blog entry is ‘unprofessional.’

 

I call it shared reflection, the ‘uncut version.’ It is the outcome of over five hours thinking on the topic. Hours banked. Ideas turned into cash. By definition when I have made two years worth of regular deposits I may call myself and even be defined as an ‘e-learning professional’ with the MA to suggest I have joined that club, and a job that for the remuneration I receive makes me a professional rather than a wishful thinking wannabe.

 

It is unprofessional as a post-graduate student to be flippant and/or verbose.

 

A professional would keep this down to 500 words, yet I am stretching it to 3,000. The uncut version. Reflection in action. My mind at work. Not the athlete sharing a few ‘mots justes’ after a successful race, but the race itself and all the training before hand. The choice words, bullet point form only with an abridged commentary goes into my Tutor Group Forum. Under 250 words there, is my targert. Under 1,000 words per OU blog had been my thinking too. Blown that then.

 

Watching the TV I fall asleep.

 

Listening to the radio (i.e. any audio) I do something else – I’d be distracted anyway, I have to.

 

In an effort to get into my head the points being made by OUr E-learning Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) I first read the transcripts provided and then listened to the podcast while reading the text.

 

What shocked me was how much I had missed.

 

I do less than skim read it appears, all I must do is to look at patterns and shapes. No wonder I learn so little when I do nothing more than read.

 

Lesson learnt?

 

This isn’t an ‘airport thriller’ I can read at break-neck speed chaisng the protagonist as he is in turn chased; this requires a different kind of reading.

 

It requires effort.

 

I must work with the text, make notes. Just highlighting choices words and sentences isn’t enough either. Effort I can do. It is consistent effort unless I am working under exam conditions where I struggle. There is always something more interesting to read.

 

Historically, when successful academically, it has been a huge effort and very time consuming for me. I have to take notes (long hand). Then I have to take notes on the notes. I have to make lists, take quotes and re-order the material. I may still not make sense of it. I need to chase up a few references. I need to find my own patterns. I need to discuss it. Argue about it, agree and disagree. And then, gathering up a wad of papers and scraps of paper the whole lot needs to compost for a few months. Then, and only then, might I start to ‘get it,’ and have something constructive and original to say.

 

Do any of us have this kind of time anymore? Did we ever?

 

(My late father, my daughter and a friend, a partner in one of the world’s leading law firms, all have/had photographic memories. They would have read the transcript and been able to pick out its salient points after the first swift reading. Not so me, not so us?)

 

The process you see playing out here is an attempt to mulch the content, slow cook it and hope that I can achieve something in five hours that would normall require five months.

 

Keep cooking.

 

The second time round with the SME podcast I first worked with the text, highlighting points and generally trying to get my head around it. If you’ve come across Jakob Nielsen’s ‘Writing for the Web,’ this is what I did – isolating sentences and ideas, creating headings, sub-headings and bullet points, in a word ‘chunking. In fact, I begin to get close to doing what Richard Northridge recommends in the ‘OU Guide to Studying’ (1990) note taking, creating concept cards and then even looking for links and patterns in the text itself.

 

Lesson learnt?

 

This takes time and requires effort. I’m not great on effort. My modus operandi is (or has been) to take in volumes of material, but if this is only at a surface level no wonder I am often more frustrated than informed.

 

Lesson learnt?

 

Less is more. Rather than chasing a reference, another report or book, I need, at first, to ensure that the text I have in front of me has been dissected, not consumed, not afforded nothing more than a passing glance, but pulled apart, then reconstructed.

 

Lesson learnt?

 

Effort

 

Not the expected outcome of this simple task – my faltering approach to learning laid bare, but a valuable lesson at the start of the module.

 

At last I’m listening to the podcast.

 

I made myself think, made myself listen, I ‘sat forward’ (the technical term for interacting, for engagement.) I made myself read and take notes, made me list the contrasting ideas, the arguments for and against, the justifications … and to cluster these ideas and adjust my own thoughts accordingly based on my experience.

 

I had something to think about as I listened.

 

Do I have anything in common with these e-learning professionals in relation to assumptions and aims?

 

  • Do I have different understandings of what it means to be an ‘elearning professional’?
  • Is there a distinct elearning profession, or is elearning simply an aspect of other professions?
  • The profession of teacher?
  • The profession of a university lecturer or academic?
  • The profession of a trainer or staff developer or a human resources developer in private corporate bodies?
  • Is there an elearning professional?
  • And should I be describing my job as that of an elearning professional?

 

My short reply, given my background in sports coaching, is simple.

 

  • If you are paid you are a professional.
  • If you are the athlete and not paid you are an amateur.
  • If you’re the coach and not paid you are a volunteer.

 

Therefore, if someone is good enough and experienced enough (or simply good at selling themselves and their ideas) – and they are remunerated for their efforts, then they are a professional.

 

Rebecca Addlington is a professional athlete. Bill Furness, her coach, is a professional too.

 

At my swimming club all the swimmers are amateur, though some through bursaries to pay for County and Regional development training are by definition quasi-professional as they are receiving benefits if not in cash, then in kind. Some of the coaches and I do not define myself as a swimming coach; it’s a hobby that’s got out of hand.

 

I have ‘put in the hours.’

 

(Which I can qualify by saying I have put in the appropriate hours. i.e. time will not make you a professional, the enduring focus of your efforts will)

 

One of the key themes of the podcast made by each of the speakers is that a professional has put in the time.

 

They have put in the effort, gained experience that is directly or indirectly relevant to their e-learning expertise – and by dint of this expertise (and being paid by the OU, for books and reports, lectures and workshops too perhaps) they are all professionals.

 

At the swimming club many of us (its the biggest club in the South of England) have earned our places through years of experience, gaining qualifications and attending regular courses (CPD) to retain a licence to teach or coach aquatics. Many of us, paid or not, can call ourselves ‘professionals.’

 

Just as I’ve reduced my core thought to that of the contract between a professional and an amateur, by picking out the ideas of each speaker and doing something similar a number of interesting points regarding what it means to be an ‘e-learning professional’ emerge.

 

In this see-saw of ideas the protagonists have a habit of changing places.

 

By defining professional we should also think what it means to be unprofessional.

 

I’ve allowed this dance to play out as it leaves me with an image of a professional being circled by the professional wannabe, the unprofessional (as yet), the layperson, the naive, virgin student. A mass of non-professionals clamoring around the few.

 

The points and arguments frequently fall into another diametrically opposed set: the qualitative vs. quantitative, an objective point vs. the subjective, a value judgment vs. the facts. Everything overlaps – a Venn Diagram of the points would show sets within sets.

 

Adrian Kirkup

 

  • Amateur vs. Professional (there are many highly ‘professional’ amateurs)
  • Ineffective vs. effective.

 

Robin Mason

 

  • Hasn’t done it for long vs. been doing it for a long time
  • Undergraduate vs. PhD (A sub-set of the above)
  • Hasn’t put in the hours vs. has put in the hours (more of the same)
  • Immature vs. Mature (a variation of the same. Though professionalism is not a consequence of maturity)
  • Inexperienced vs. Experienced.(Experience that takes time to acquire, and a certain manner to be effective)

 

Gill Kirkup

 

A new field vs. an established field. (Disagree. Though a new field of subset of a professional activity would be definably professional).

 

  • New vs. Established. (as above)
  • No established standards vs. abides by general and specific received standards.
  • Acting alone or part of a professional association.
  • Part of the UK Higher Education Academy or not. (a subset of the above)
  • Part of a legitimate community or not. (as above)
  • Committed vs. Uncommitted.
  • Respectful vs. Disrespectful.
  • Respect for the individual learner, incorporating research and scholarship, the development of learning communities online is a hugely strong component in professional elearning practice. (successfully combines the subjective and unquantifiable with the quantifiable and objective)
  • Juvenile and professional vs. professional only if matured. (as Robin Mason)
  • Unlicensed vs. Licensed.

 

 

 

Robin Goodfellow

 

  • Genuine vs. not genuine.
  • Unrecognised vs. Recognised.
  • Inexperienced vs. Experienced.
  • Independent vs. tied (to government or a business).(disagree)
  • Technical foundation vs. no technical foundation
  • No need for a label, e-learning professional vs. professional enhancer. (strongly agree)

 

 

 

Chris Jones

 

  • Takes time vs. no time.(as Robin Mason and Robin Goodfellow. You have to put in the time to become a professional. Which I guess applies as much to the professional criminal, as the Professional lawyer. Little p, Big P- see below)
  • Part of the mainstream vs. Specialist. (disagree)
  • ‘Lone Ranger’ and early stages of innovation … vs. early majority and established (themes of Rogers)
  • Enthusiasts vs. the not interested. (strongly agree)
  • Society and the professionalisation of modern life (quotable)
  • Sport in the 20th century and professional vs. amateurs in sport
  • Traditional and modern professionals
  • Autonomous vs. dependent
  • Trustworthy vs. (spin/PR/Branding/Agenda)
  • Not part of a trade association or governing body vs. part of such an association
  • Generalist vs. specialist
  • An outside vs. part of something
  • Formalised standards vs. none
  • Unmonitored vs. monitored
  • Is there a distinct elearning profession, or is elearning simply an aspect of other professions?
  • Little ‘p’ pr big ‘P.’

 

Jonathan Vernon (moi)

 

  • Doesn’t look the part vs. looks the part.
  • Lacks form vs. has form.
  • Self-taught vs. ‘done a course.’
  • Qualified (with the piece of paper to prove it) vs. Unqualified (however expert they may be).

 

Some thoughts on the points identified above

 

It is worth reflecting on Robin Mason’s point about ‘putting in the hours.’

 

The suggestion that genius and expertise requires 10,000 hours of effort is no urban myth. A study carried out at the Berlin Music Conservatoire identified three groups of graduates. Asked to estimate how many hours of practice and playing each student had put in since picking up an instrument they were then divided into three distinct categories: up to 4,000 hours, up to 8,000 hours and up to 10,000 hours. The first became teachers, the second category got places in orchestras whilst the tiny number who had put in 10,000 hours (takes around 10 years to do this) were most likely to be the solo artists, the concert pianists, the mavericks, the Vanessa Maes and Mozarts. Whilst all these categories are professionals, they are paid for their skills, the use of the word ‘professional’ to distinguish those who are expert, who have attained a certain standard, would in my view apply to the musicians who have made it into a top orchestra – with the soloists in a category beyond the ‘professional.’

 

Our ‘OU H808 E-learning SME professionals’, given the decades of thought they have put into what we now define as ‘e-learning’, have been part of this ‘orchestra’ of professionals for some time, and who knows, we may have a Mozart amongst them. Personally, I’ve not read enough from any of them yet to know any better. I look forward to hearing what they have to say and how they say it.

 

Interestingly, Robin Mason returns repeatedly to a theme of time passing, of gaining, requiring or acquiring maturity of thought. Though I feel as if I am clutching at ideas in an amorphous cloud here, my sense is that whether it is professional with a big P or a little p, that the word ‘maturity’; might say it all.

 

What does maturity imply?

 

Growing up, lessons learnt, age, growth, adult hood, a way of behaving, able to fit in and contribute to a community and so on.

 

I disagree with Gill Kirkup

 

If I have understood her correctly regarding her suggesting that only in an established field is something professional whilst in a new field this is not possible. We can all think of (or at least imagine) an unprofessional ‘professional.’ The corrupt lawyer, the doctor struck off the medical register, the TV food expert who is not a doctor at all (and so a sham professional).

 

In 2000 I would have defined myself, as some of the panel here would have done, as what is now termed an ‘e-learning’ professional. After fifteen years in corporate communications, training and learning, creating linear, then non-linear and ultimately web-based materials the companies and government department for whom I worked through various production companies had to see me as ‘professional.’ I hadn’t done the post-graduate studying, but I’d learnt through observation and experience (first carrying video kit into the changing rooms of a nuclear power plant age 17 assisting with a training film for BNFL at Sellafield).

 

Interestingly, I don’t currently consider myself to be an e-learning or a learning professional and even with the MA I hope to gain in 2011 I will by my own definition not be a professional until I am being paid for my expertise.

 

To use a horse-racing term I lack ‘form.’

 

I’m literally out of the race (for now).

 

Being studious here and building my confidence is part of the plan to regain the ‘professional’ tag.

 

Does a barrister on retirement cease to be a professional lawyer?

 

Socio-econonmically he/she would still be defined as a ‘professional’ would they not?

 

I agree however, very much, with Gill Kirkup’s views regarding ‘respect’ and her definition of an e-learning professional within the academic community.

 

Respect for the individual learner, incorporating research and scholarship, the development of learning communities online is a hugely strong component in professional elearning practice.’

 

(This, for me, successfully combines the subjective and unquantifiable with the quantifiable and objective. i.e. you can be a professional Professional).

 

I disagree with Robin Goodfellow’s view that a professional must be independent vs. tied (to government or a business). If we look beyond e-learning professionals and academia it would be quite wrong to say that someone is not professional simply because they represent the interests of an organisation or government department, let alone are being paid to take a certain stance or have a strongly held view (left or right wing politically, religious or atheist and so on).

 

If nothing else, I believe I have shown above that there is a natural dichotomy, if not a debate even an implicit conflict, between views on whether a person, or institution, or field of study, can be defined as professional or not, worthy of study or not.

 

It is engagement in such a debate where a professional proves their credentials.

 

A professional is a match for anyone, whilst the unprofessional would not play by the rules, make excuses, bow out…

 

Dare I imply that all the above are differentiating between the educated and uneducated?

 

Is it so black and white? Students at school, scholars as Edwardian’s would have defined them, and undergraduates, graduates too, in terms of education can never be defined as ‘professional.’

 

Or can they?

 

The government pays students to go to college, to stay on in secondary school after the age of 16 – does not this make them pros, like a boy of a similar age getting paid to play football in an academy, they literally ‘turn pro.’

 

I agree with Robin Goodfellow that there is ‘need for a label’, that what is currently the e-learning professional may be the ‘professional enhancer ‘of the future if the UK HE Academy has their way (though I doubt the term will stick). Just as Robin was (we were) once web-based learning professionals, or learning professionals, or professionals in education…

 

Big P, little p (Chris Jones) is the most memorable expression of an idea in relation to the professional Professional that I take from this and a worthy talking point. And 2,500 words in I could sum it up with a Twitter count.

 

Professional is an adjective and a noun.

 

Anyone can be described as ‘professional,’ (adjective) by dint of their behaviour and experience, however to be a ‘professional’, (noun), various criteria should be met. Depending on how your measure up, by Chris Jones’s definition, you are either Big or Little P.

 

(I can think of other categories where a similar way of looking at things could be applied, for example, ‘engineer’. The person who fixes my washing machine may call himself an ‘engineer,’ but Isambard Kingdom Brunel was an ‘Engineer’. A sports psychologist is no longer allowed to call themselves such, they are sports scientists. So Psychologist, if not professional, not has a legally binding form of expression and use).

 

I disagree however with Chris Jone’s view that Professionals (big P you notice) have to be specialists whilst implicitly, if they are professional at all (little p) they are not, or unlikely to be so if they are part of the mainstream.

 

Or do I?

 

(I’m changing my mind as I write this, reflecting on a matter tends to do this. You twist yourself in so many knots and then find you are looking in the opposite direction – and happy to do so)

 

Onwards

 

Is there an implicit elitism here that makes me uncomfortable, an obvious them and us?

 

As a Professional I am not ‘part of the mainstream’ ?

 

Yes, that’s it.

 

You see the ‘mainstream’ is the population, everyone, in the universe that we are discussing. Professionals are of the mainstream, of society, even if they are a subset community within the broader community.

 

The likes of Richard Dawkin and Stephen Hawkings are ‘professional Professionals’ by their engagement with the world, not because of an elitist, hide-themselves away hermit like attitude to knowledge acquisition. Do Simon Schama and Neil Ferguson fall into the same category of professionalism?

 

Be published and damned, broadcast and be damned even more?

 

But you don’t have to be famous to be Professional (though I dare say you’d cease to be professional if you became infamous).

 

Or have I been making a mistake through-out this internal debate … this reflection – that we have always only been discussing Big P professionalism ONLY as part of ‘the whole thing,’ i.e. the specific category of the ‘e-learning Professional’ and just as this time round I haven’t given a moment’s thought to ‘e-learning’ as a term, I have nonetheless unnecessarily dissected the term ‘professional.’

 

I’m yet to click through the OED online.

 

I daren’t. It may be my undoing.

 

Back to my idea of a Venn Diagram.

 

If ‘professionals’ is the universe then we have two subsets, Professionals (Big P) and professionals (little p) (the noun only). Far smaller, and intersecting both these sets, we have ‘e-learning.’ There are in e-learning little P and Big P professionals.

 

Still with me?

 

But there are also non-professionals, and even  the unprofessional to consider. Can they also be defined as Non-professionals (Big N) and Unprofessionals (Big U).

 

Final thoughts

 

Might a professional be defined as someone with ‘qualified confidence in their field?’

 

Not finished yet

 

I’ve got a Venn Diagram to draw, some visualising to do.

 

Can a loner be a professional?

 

I enjoyed Chris Jones’s point about the ‘Lone Ranger’ that in early stages of innovation there are maverick, loners having a go at something new way ahead of anyone else – think Dr Emmett Brown in ‘Back to the Future’ tinkering away at the construction of a time-travelling automobile. Are such people professionals or even professional? Does this ‘odd-ball’ behaviour disenfranchise you from the professional community, even if you have the mind the size of a planet?

 

A consultant escapes the hospital ward for a couple of years to undertake research. Just because they are beavering away on their own, being a ‘Lone Ranger’ doesn’t disqualify them from the category of ‘Professional,’ (Big P), or even ‘professional Professional’ (little p, Big P).

 

Dare I suggest that our panel of e-learning experts are ‘professional e-Professionals’ ?

 

I don’t even begin to delve into the thinking behind innovation diffusion. This is an entire module in its own right. It is called ‘Innovations in E-learning’, or H807 for short.

 

For more read ‘Diffusion of Innovations’ E.M.Rogers. (2005) 5th edition.

 

Nor am I going to teach the definition ‘e-learning.’

 

Is there a professional ‘look.’

 

Forgive me if I make a comparison here between the need for barristers to put on the appropriate garb in court and so look Professional with a big p, compared to those wishing to be called professional and seen as Professional who don’t look the part. Poolside as coaches it is expected that all teachers are appropriately dressed in the club colours and well groomed – this looks professional. There was once a time when teachers wore a jacket and tie, so looked professional like fellow professionals such as lawyers and doctors. Don’t academic look the part, ‘look professional’ in their gowns and mortar-boards?

 

And having addressed ‘looks’ can someone sound ‘professional?

 

Think how a director chooses actors to play a role. Look at Michael Cane in ‘Educating Rita,’ is this the stereotypical professional Professor?

 

Another discussion, but coming from corporate communications we have been through exercises of using authentic presenters (people who work at the place) compared to buying in ‘professional’ presenters. To do justice to the message in the TV medium the professional broadcasters were far better at putting over the points the client wanted to make.

 

As I said, another discussion, a different thread.

 

P.S. It would be unprofessional to post such a long entry into a tutor forum, where a 500 word, even a 250 word version will be posted (the bullet points, or just my thoughts on the key bullet points … or just where I strongly agree or disagree).

 

Lesson Learnt ?

 

Professionals put in the time and effort, and follow rather than ignore guidelines for the community in which they operate.

 

It strikes me that academics, like creatives, are more interested in reputation and recognition than money.

 

Is it not striking that not one of our panel mention it?

 

Can you be a professional without it?

 

And what about spelling and grammar?

 

The ability to communicate. Have I mentioned that. Can the professional spell?

 

 

Educational Social Networking or not working?

Isn’t ‘re-invention’ the word? (Rogers, P114 & P115, 2002)

Not wholesale repurposing, but as Rogers puts it ‘It should be acknowledged that rejection, discontinuance and re-invention frequently occur during the diffusion of an innovation and that such behaviour may be rational and appropriate from the individual’s point of view.’ (Rogers, p114 2002

This fascinates me primarily because I am convinced that collaboration, sharing, discussion and so on is crucial to a deeper learning outcome. But does this not have to be down to the drive of the individual and permitted by the institution they belong to?

How much motivation can others really offer or be expected to offer

If neither a carrot or stick will work with adult learners, especially in a online environment, then what do you do? ‘You can take a horse to the trough, but you can’t make it drink.’ As I’m about to take a course on the Psychology of Sport as a Senior Swimming Coach I may gain some further insights into what motivates people to do something and how outsiders can influence this in a positive way. And just because we’re invited to drink from this trough once, dos not mean we will do it again, or often or with enthusiasm. Our moods will wax and wane, or commitments beyond the course will impinge.

Deep learning, as I’ve learnt, benefits from, even requires a rapport with one or several others at various levels of understanding – a Subject Matter Expert (SME) or experts, a tutor, a couple of fellow students on the course, and perhaps someone more junior who can be in turn mentored or tutored by us (first years being buddied by a second year, a post-grad student supervising a fresher). How much this mix can be set by what little the OU or other Distance Learning Provider knows about an individual is quite another matter. Do you run a call-centre like team of facilitators/moderators … or aspire to the one-to-one relationship of tutor or governess to student mimicking some land-owning/aristocratic model of the distant past? Where is or how can that rapport that can work between student and tutor be recreated here? Or is this something for a DPhil?

A free-for-all would create imbalances, inevitably … for the institution. But whose experience are we prioritising here? Whilst a balance must be found, if the best outcomes are to give tutors and SMEs much more time online to forge relationships then this should be – a good coach attracts the best athletes and attracts the interest of other coaches. How does she do that? (Expertise, training and personality … enthusiasm, putting the athlete at the centre of things) Perhaps by pursuing ‘educational social networking’ institutions are shooting themselves in the financial foot? The time put in to make a freer networking between students, tutors and SMEs, with students in different time zones and different priorities would be prohibitive.

Undergraduates studying on campus, in a homophilous cohort, with fewer worries (other than debt) don’t know how fortunate they are to have this opportunity to study, probably for the only time, before the life of the wider world impinges.

Are Personal Learning Environment (PLE) a way or the way forward?

If I have this concept right, i.e. with the formal relationships and tutor relationship given equal potential, the tools in one place on the same homepage is a suitable progression from the VLE) Perhaps OU students are doing this anyway by starting at their own Blog or Home Page and simply anchoring the pages from the OU that matter most to them?

The New Scientist is running an interesting essay in its current edition which touches on all of this. New Scientist (week 10th July 2010) has a piece called ‘Generation F’ by Richard Fisher (2010).

  • 400 million worldwide … on social networking sites.
  • The importance of weak ties as well as close ones.
  • The time it takes to forge ‘reliable and trustworthy’ ties.
  • The value of ‘acquaintances’ to provide relevant and trustworthy news/information.

The article is prone to the some hyperbole: Social networking sites (Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace) the ‘harbingers of a sea change in our social evolution, in the same way that the arrival of language informed our ancestors.’ (Donarth, 2009) Danah Boyd (2009) describes Facebook as ‘an essential utility like water or electricity.’ Academics are just as guilty of this kind of thing, there’s been plenty of it in the reading for H807 the democratising of education, ‘starting the world anew’ ala Tom Paine etc: and claims made in the last ten/twenty years regarding ICT and education, what it could do, will do … but hasn’t.

The essay is of value though for how, and if, social networking can be used for short-term purposes: ‘Online social networking appears to be ‘very good for servicing relationships, but not for building them de novo.’ (Dunbar, 2010) H807 tries to use an ‘educational social networking’ approach, or does it. Perhaps it is deliberately more self-contained than this. Though with emphasis on authors such as Salmon (2002) and her model for e-tivities, undue emphasis is put on getting people talking and working together? Is that so necessary. Isn’t experience showing that this is wishful thinking?

Why do more people quit a an online distance learning course (20-50%) compared to a traditional distance learning course?

What are the views on conversations, synchronous or asynchronous between fellow students and students online?

Collaboration between some random people I may meet at the bus stop when the service is delayed is not the same as forging an academic bond with some one or some many who are equally engaged with the material, whether their opinions are the antithesis of mine would be immaterial – indeed, disagreement would be better, it feeds discussion. This is NOT a criticism of H807, we have a common purpose, we have elected to do H807, there is a common profile intellectually and absolutely the variety of life experiences enriches the experience. But clearly, as individuals, our approaches to learning, IT skills, time allocated to the task and for many other reasons will and does negate against certain ways of learning. Such as this.

If on the one hand the wishes of some students, maybe most, to stay at arms length aren’t the wishes or hopes of others who would like to engage with a wider circle being denied? The sort of relationships between students that the OU is hoping for can surely only developed over a few years rather than a few months.

Jeff Hancock (2008) of Cornell University ‘… found that those with Facebook access asked questions to which they already knew the answers or raised things they had in common, and as a result were much more successful at winning people over.’ (New Scientist, 10July2010).

We experienced the ease with which we could share personal information, there was no drilling or phfishing for information, but clearly I will know more about some people than others. Its relevance is another matter, the buy-in to these people could eventually result in a bond of sorts, at least as working on this platform is concerned. I would have to look back through the way we respond to each other to see if the above occurred … deliberately asking certain people certain things even though we knew the answer, as a catalyst to conversation. This does not work discussing trivia such as pets and the weather (though I’ve indulged in plenty of that too … it doesn’t lead to conversations on costing programming, what Vygotsky means about scaffolding or whether we are fed up with e-tivities, e-granaries, e-moderators … and e-jobs.

Mid-way through the unit we read Elliot (2008) and I took an interest in the way ‘lifelong learning’ functions. I was looking at this as an adult learner environment, the merging of social, family and work through social networking sites and the communication habits and styles of all three merging into and becoming a messed up single entity. Historically it wasn’t long ago that work, family and social worlds were one … fifty years ago, seventy or a hundred years? No more. Both of these points, revealing more and the merging, or coalescent, or the dropping of barriers between these spheres is changing behaviours.

‘Increased visibility also means our various social spheres – family, work and friends- are merging and so we will have to prepare for new societal norms. ‘Well have to learn how to live a more transparent life.’ (Holtzman, 2009)

The idea of ‘Exposure’ was used by Ellen Levy in 1999 (Levy, 1999) after she had spent a year keeping a blog and photojournal, then a novel activity. (Washington Post, 24th September, 1999). What an employer, parent, friends or colleagues make of this is another matter, but then again, one day we’ll all be walking around with our DNA profile on a dog-tag (or embedded under our skin on a microchip).

The relevance of all of this?

How far can the individual be indulged within the parameters of an online course, that must retain students and prove its worth to the institution (financial, academic, members), the students (worth it financially, academically, career wise … and personally) … and the wider community (grants, knowledgeable workforce, content and informed citizens)

Je suis comme je suis

Je suis faite comme ça

(Jacques Prevert, 1946)

I am what I am, I was made this way. ….

REFERENCE

Donath, J. New Scientist. 10 July 2010. Volume 207 N0 2768. http://www.newscientist.com, p40. From Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, vol.13, p 231)

Dunbar, R. (2009) How many friends does one person need? Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Oxford. Quoted in New Scientist. 10 July 2010. Volume 207 N0 2768. http://www.newscientist.com.

Elliott, B. (2008) Assessment 2.0: Modernising Assessment in the Age of Web 2.0 [online], Scottish Qualifications Authority; available from http://www.scribd.com/doc/461041/Assessment-20 (Accessed 1 February 2010).

Ellison, N (2007) The Benefits of Facebook “Friends:” Social Capital and College Students’ Use of Online Social Network Sites Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication Volume 12, Issue 4, Date: July 2007, Pages: 1143-1168 Nicole B. Ellison, Charles Steinfield, Cliff Lampe. (Accessed 11 July 2010) Quoted in New Scientist. 10 July 2010. Volume 207 N0 2768. http://www.newscientist.com.

Fisher, R (2010) New Scientist. 10 July 2010. Volume 207 N0 2768. http://www.newscientist.com Granoveter, M, S. (1973) The Strength of Weak Ties. The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 78, No. 6 (May, 1973), pp. 1360-1380 http://www.jstor.org.libezproxy.open.ac.uk/action/exportSingleCitation?singleCitation=true&suffix=2776392 (Accessed 11 July 2010) Quoted in New Scientist. 10 July 2010. Volume 207 N0 2768. http://www.newscientist.com. The University of Chicago Press.

Golbeck, J (2010) Quoted in New Scientist. 10 July 2010. Volume 207 N0 2768. http://www.newscientist.com.

Hancock, J. (2008) I know something you don’t: the use of asymmetric personal information for interpersonal advantage Jeffrey T. Hancock, Catalina L. Toma, Kate Fenner. Quoted in New Scientist. 10 July 2010. Volume 207 N0 2768. http://www.newscientist.com. (Accessed 11 July 2010)

Holtzman, H (2010) Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Quoted in New Scientist. 10 July 2010. Volume 207 N0 2768. http://www.newscientist.com

Kearns, M. (2009) Behavioral experiments on biased voting in networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol 106, p1347) http://www.pnas.org.libezproxy.open.ac.uk/content/106/5/1347.full.pdf+html (Accessed 11 July 2010) Quoted in New Scientist. 10 July 2010. Volume 207 N0 2768. http://www.newscientist.com. Levy, E. (1999) Featured in article in the Washinton Post, 24 September 2010. See more at http://businessinnovationfactory.com/iss/innovators/ellen-levy (accessed 11 July 2010)

Prevert, J, (146) Paroles.

Pentland, S (2010) Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Quoted in New Scientist. 10 July 2010. Volume 207 N0 2768. http://www.newscientist.com Rogers, E.M. (2003) Diffusion of Innovations (5th edn), New York, Simon and Schuster.

Salmon, E (2002) E-tivities the key to online learning. Kogan Page. Tong, S, T. (2008) Too Much of a Good Thing? The Relationship Between Number of Friends and Interpersonal Impressions on Facebook. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, vol13 p531-549)

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