Category Archives: Community IT Centres

Lots to do: thoughts on the task ahead

The task, for me, the lots to-do is to transform theory to practice. That is, education development aims not just to bring about correct understanding but to create social and political conditions (that is, community) more conducive to human flourishing than the present ones.

I became a Football Coach last winter and now help run a childrens’ football club (Donnington FC). My head coach has a to do list to keep Alexander the Great busy. I feel kind of the same at work. So many good ideas! Not all mine, I hasten to add!

Big on the to-do list is bringing a number of blogs back to life, not least my own! In teaching you do have to walk the chalk not just talk the talk. It can get dressed up as authenticity and typologised away into abstraction but that only lasts so long: froth. I was going to say like froth on a cappuccino but the cappuccinos from the machines today seem to have industrial strength froth that way outlasts the coffee. You get my point?

I say “social media” but I am far from the biggest of the big-time edtech bloggers. Not even close! Am I having my “those who can’t…” moment? I say “social” media but I do not do social media? So many film references, so little time: “here’s Jack,” “he’s back,””unforgiven.”

Look at my own typology. Experience? Well ok, or at least a few years under the belt. Dialogue? I have become better over the years at giving voice to others. Reflection? Yes but in my world, too private. This goes to a correction needed. Participation? There is a gap for me, which I will get to. Community? don’t get me started. It is all what matters and strikes me is incompatible with most hierarchies – but significantly: not all hierarchies. Outcomes? They matter. Whether or not specified or unintended what happens as a result of setting yourself up to do something is consequential. And, finally Activity. You actually have to do stuff. Like write. In blogs. And make pictures about it, which could mean lines in the sand, or yellow dandelions on green grass setting up positions for a transition moment: a change of possession. And in that moment, team, there is lot’s to do.

The participation gap? I said I’d come back to that. There is a gap, I suggest, for everyone in education. There is something called the “real world”. Where “real people” feed children, or not. Where absolutely all some people have is the child in their arms and a half a bottle of water.

Like I said, the task, for me, the lots to-do is to transform theory to practice. Education development aims not just to bring about correct understanding but to create social and political conditions (that is, community) more conducive to human flourishing than the present ones.

Backpacks, badges and epistemology: an interesting conversation that leads to happily ever after

Grant (2014) asks in the title to her book about digital badges, “What Counts as Learning?” This succinctly expresses the question of higher education and explains the continuing interest in badges, and in learning technologies in general. The fact this is less explored, gives me an opportunity to explore both learning technology and epistemology.

I have developed a new MA Education course module, “Philosophy and policy of higher education”. In this 20 credit level 7 module the question: “What counts as learning?” will be explored. That is the seductive game higher education plays: a chance at determining or being among the determiners of meaning – what counts as learning – for a generation or so. To extend the “play” metaphor to a stage on which higher education acts, higher education as an institution and its practitioners as individuals seek to occupy the limen, the space on the edge between consensual suspension of belief in order to “live the dream”, and the world as it is, explained. More critically for those in the game it poses the question about one’s own underpinnings, one own “will to power”, or academic identity or even life.

Badges are something like brand propositions and to some extent depend on other similar propositions. Like many brand propositions their link to truth is explicitly unattested. The badge can only serve as a conversation starter. Like travel badges on a backpack seen on an overnight Eurail while sleeping in the vestibule: “So when did you go to Sweden?” Most universities have a t-shirt and sports kit with a name and often a crest or logo. Some might serve the question: “Were you at Malmo?” To which an answer might be “No, it is a good hoodie.” But could also be, “Yes, for ice-hockey in 2009.”

Possibly the internet will work like the cold vestibule of a Eurail under an ex army coat, and when we see badges on a site we may start that interesting conversation that leads to happily ever after: life, love, career, changing the world? Or same as it ever was. That conversation about changing the world? Because as it is now, the foundations of meaning sometimes appear both unsound and cruel, not just one or the other.


Grant, Sheryl. 2014. What Counts as Learning: Open Badges for New Opportunities. Kindle. Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub.

Dialogic multimedia

Biblioteca Angelica

Biblioteca Angelica (cc sa) Seth Schoen

What kicked me off on this audio exploration of academic multimedia? Two things.

First and proximal cause: when I reported that my colleagues and I had been asked if we could give workshops on technology enhanced learning (TEL) the suggestion was scoffed. Why give workshops when you could do a series of three minute talking heads?

But the deeper underlying cause has been my interest in academic multimedia and dialogue – even dialogism – in learning. Continue reading

Widening Participation Working Group Away Day (Oxford Brookes University)

Semi-live notes from very interesting and data filled Oxford Brookes University Widening Participation Working Group Away Day at Marston Road. (Of 30 people in the room only one obviously black man and two Asian women. Matches our BME student profile? c. 10%)

The day was framed by demographics about where Brookes sits, and politics in light of the forthcoming election, which enabled a critical frame for the day: whose WP are we talking about? Is the “lifecourse” educational – or institutional – for everyone?

Should OCSLD have had a pitch here? Because support for staff development IS support for WP. Though we are not seen as a service for students, institutionally, the significant change that has to be made is “Academic”: academic literacy, academic content, academic writing, academic culture.  Critical analysis is HUGE. Planning and structuring assignments is HUGE. When you have many inquiries from the same course at the same time, you ask: Can we move up the river and see “who is ‘pushing the bodies into the stream'”? Is this is where OCSLD has a role working with course teams?

This post will be updated through the day (Tuesday 10 March 0930-1430)

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Open online courses: ALT MOOC SIG

Semi-live blog

I am attending the ALT MOOC SIG.

There is a question to be answered by everyone, who receives an income from an institution, and who asks that institution to do something for no remuneration. Why should that activity be subsidised? Who should subsidise it?

In the past it has largely been the state through government and taxation, and third sector (charities, friendly societies) NGOs, who have subsidised activity for the general good.

This concept of the general good is vexingly problematic. We still cling to the National Health Service and K-12 education as prima facie examples of activity, which should be provided by all for all. Museums still largely enjoy this indulgence in the UK. Universities did for the past maybe 50-100 years; longer if charity, church and guild-funding can be counted among the general good.

Between the gipsy scholar and the institutional baron there is a wide swathe of “me”: people who believe in the general good of what they do, nervously charitable and accepting of many others of similar disposition. Yet, nonetheless admitting uncertainty of the general good of all the nuances exposed by such a liberal consensus: of course my activity should be supported; but, that person’s field is of very questionable worth.

Are MOOCs for marketing asks Diana Laurillard. Cites a MOOC: ICT in Primary Education (using Coursera and social citation software outside Coursera: Padlet, Diigo) run jointly with UNESCO. Has “wider good” aspiration values. Data is equated with more: “I have become a total data junkie. I wake up every morning [shaking], how many more? How many more?” So a problem is not providing free education to highly qualified professionals; or is it? Not retaining undergraduates. Is achieving reach into emerging markets the same as achieving educational goals? Diana asserts her skepticism about MOOCs. Says we have to be critical, well, “because we have to.” And to be critical you have to be on the inside. Reminded of many years ago at the Cabinet Office, when she firmly said that, “It is better to be inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in”. Is having an 8,000 to one student to staff ratio a good thing? Leveraging community support but what about the living wage? Can MOOC money be better deployed in professionalising 1.6 million new teachers?

Fred Garnett starts his talk in government, asserting that the present government is not at all interested in social inclusion. He asks about criteria for evaluating education because “learning doesn’t scale.” His criteria are: Is education (which may scale) enabling or transforming? Is TEL a subset of learning, a superset of learning or something else? I suggest it is a limen to, from, between and contexts and is a context itself. As “content is [said to be] king”, Fred says, “Context is Queen.” No content can solve the digital divide. Interest drives learning. Authentic learning has community based/responsive curricula. Such curricula are participatory, evaluative, dialogic, social and self-determined. He suggests some approaches (CGFL, NGFL, Ambient Learning City, Fred levels a charge at the big xMOOCs. Are they attracting and appropriating the intellectual wealth of emerging nations and using this to maintain current power structures. He leaves the question open as to solutions, but on invitation, he suggests that a Freirian, problem-posing pedagogy is part of the “solution”. Learning spaces are also part of the solution. Botanical gardens are valuable learning spaces. So, too, national trust properties, woodlands (see Pagell, Mark, Wired for Culture).

… and Geocaching?

Alexander Griffiths (Huddersfield) talks about geocaching as a “mooc”, Or is it a platform? Does it matter. You can learn through  trails literally and metaphorically. I am reminded of Fathom, which used “trails” to link up pieces of learning.

Patrick Haughton (QUB) goes beyond the selfie. Future Learn. Has a nice visual representation of the course created in in Prezi. Layered formality and informality. Learner centred, inclusive, facilitative, accessible (on a phone) and open (international). “What is identity” addressed through self-reflective learning tasks: learners create digital artefact of their choice. engaged with recommended tools. Peer review and self-assessment tests. Very nice use of Padlet and internet repositories, Flickr, YouTube. Padlet, Storify. Questions float around the assessment of and through academic multimedia.

Now, MOOCs need stewardship (Shirley Williams, University of Reading). Built open courses on Future Learn. Is stewardship a need? Technology stewards are part of it. MOOC stewarding is facilitatingh a supportive environment while a course is running: weaving the community, recognising problems. May include technology stewardship, or not (but someone has to do it). Using three levels: the educator team, student mentors and participants. But participation by the educators is essential. How do you get Professor Big Star to be there? They are busy, travel a lot, have limited availability. Solutions: weekly summary video (possibly ghost written), tweet stream, “captain’s log”. Uses student mentors. They pay them. Train them. They can count this towards the RED (employability skills development) award. Pay UG and PG “demonstrating rates” £9.xx/hour up to something more for the PGs for 5-7 student helpers for 10 hours a week. Seed people from previous runs?

Now Aidan Johnson (Strathclyde) Storytelling through a MOOC. “There has been a murder.” Investigation, evidence, mystery. Entirely un-influenced (not!) by forensic science television dramas. But large potential audience. If a murder mystery is “fun” can it be authentic? Another Future Learn Course. Biggest ever on the platform (26,000+ participants). Again used social media, Twitter, Facebook (x2). Nice map of the activity. Discussions were not moderated. Used Google Hangouts for tutorial sessions. Ran as accredited internal 10 credit course.

Jenny Mackness and Frances Bell. Rhizome as a metaphor for different kinds of learning. Six weeks seems to be becoming paradigmatic for a MOOC.  The metaphor of the rhizome has good and bad aspects (mint and ground elder); subversive or pernicious? Non-heirarchical or army of clones?

Characteristics of rhizomatic learning include: connection, heterogeneity, multiplicity, (doesn’t recognise a prior unity), contextualised, the map not the territory, a-signifying rupture (resisting definition; deterritorialising and reterritorialising). The convener and the curriculum are in some tension in an environment of ambiguity, concern, community, power and politics. Communitarian emergence may be problematic. And, of course, human networks are discontinuous because we walk, asserts Fred Garnett.

Over lunch spoke more to Aidan about MOOCs for credit at Strathclyde.

Pat Lockley plays bingo with us. He starts massive and stays massive. Seriously large numbers at U of London International MOOC on English Common Law. Everything is open. 5,000 have visited the post MOOC open MOOC. Used 8 platforms 4x WordPress, YouTube, SoundCloud, SlideShare, Amazon S3 cloud server. Use Livestream not YouTube? Use of the ask the professor feature was larger in the MOOC, though the numbers on the MOOC and the UoL courses are similar. MOOC learners are more active.

Helena Gillespie (UEA) MOOCs and Metrics: success and evaluation data. How is it going? What is the most successful MOOC? most people? Best demographic? Most completion? Most countries? Love for STEM subjects? Best corporate employer collaboration? How many did you get is not the right question.

So what are the right ones?

  • Extend reach and access
  • Build brand
  • Improve revenue
  • Improve outcomes
  • Innovation
  • Research-led teaching

Bye from a great day…!


College of Higher Education: a third space or a thousand miles?

Colleges of (or including) higher education teach – among other courses at other levels – courses leading to degrees of higher education: Foundation Degrees (UK QCF levels 4 and 5), Bachelors Degrees (sometimes just called higher education degree, UK QCF levels 4, 5, 6) and Post Graduate Certificates, Diplomas and Masters Degrees (UK QCF level 7). Staff who teach on these programmes may have doctorates or be undertaking doctoral level study, but the institution probably is not, itself, teaching doctoral level courses.

Personal disclaimer: I attended a College of Higher Education in the USA for my first degree. There were about 2,800 students (600 in each of four undergraduate years and about 400 Post Grads). There were niche pockets of research (Super Glue “Locktite” was developed by a Prof there). I worked for 3 years about 20 hours a week in kitchens: initially the College Kitchens where “student-aid” work was a source of cheap labour (Buildings and Grounds was also a big employer of student-aid “leaf sweepers”). I would have failed the university league tables for graduate-level employment. I have since taught briefly in UK FE: I taught IT to brickies, sparks and chippies. I taught community and adult education courses for many years in rooms in schools, FE colleges, adult colleges, polytechnics and universities mostly in Oxford, Reading and Newbury.

Colleges have a particular resonances in the UK: Eton is a college. Oxbridge has colleges. There is Sheffield College, Coleg Gwent and Oxford and Cherwell Valley colleges. There is Ruskin College and Coleg Harlech and Lews Castle College. Lews Castle, for example, has research centres of excellence in a few niche areas: renewable energy research, health, and rural development and Education/pedagogical research. How does that coffee smell?

It is probably not right to describe Colleges of HE as places “between” FE and HE, though the institutional (political, cultural and economic) structures in the UK at present encourage this “between-ness”. As long as “we” feel “we” are between “them”; or “we” feel “they” are between “us” there are power or “face” differentials applied that can be converted to some kind of symbolic (often employment: principal or labour) capital.

But, this categorical thinking is also problematic. Should HE Colleges have a new and identifiable status against FE and HE and on a par with both? OK. Which ones? Those in country parkland or special output areas? Those with 14-18 provision included in the mix? How much HE does there have to be? My plumber is grounded in German Literature. The builder who knocked our brick terrace ground floor into one studied politics.

Are HE colleges hybrid (Simmons and Lea 2013, 4) “third spaces” where institutional identity is negotiated against two originary cultures (HE and FE)? Or are HE colleges a thousand miles apart? And if so apart from which originary culture?

Simmons, Jonathan, and John Lea. 2013. “Capturing an HE Ethos in College Higher Education Practice”. QAA 576 1 2 / 13. The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.



Fascinating bi-modality in charts of social media use by young Europeans via @GrahamAttwell

European survey data on how young people are using social media.

Either they use it or they don’t. Not much middle ground. 25% use the Internet more than 20 hours a week; 30% less than 5 hours. Well, it is more complex than that, of course, but even stronger bimodality is showm with IM. Not sure about the typology of users, but the implications for teaching are challenging. Who do you teach to? Should teachers and institutions adopt one modality? Or, the other? Aim for the middle and hit no-one?

Posted via web from George’s posterous

how HESA normalises black, mixed and other ethnic group graduates to reduce their impact by a quarter!

Or, at least that is one possible reading of this following example from HESA’s Guidelines for the use of the DLHE Longitudinal Survey Dataset.

To illustrate how this is done:Black, mixed and other ethnic group graduates accounted for 21.9% of the selected Sample A.

From the initial census it is known that these graduates represent just 4.9% of all graduates

To ensure that these graduates feature in the analysis in their correct proportion, the ‘black’, ‘mixed ethnic group’ and ‘other ethnicity’ graduates in the sample would be given a weight of 4.9/21.9.

You mean weight the results by 5/20 because most of the respondents were black! What is the correct proportion? This is a small example of how marginalised groups appear to have to work five times as hard just to be level.

Posted via email from George’s posterous

Josie Fraser (@josiefraser) on 3 ways to characterise online identity

There are three main ways we can characterise most peoples online internet and mobile activity and presence. Let me state up front that these distinctions are purposely blunt, but do act as effective and critical distinctions, especially when talking to people about how and why they can manage their online identities.

Josie Fraser characterises these as: personal, professional and organisational. The article is a very useful intro to some of the problems around personal identity management.

Posted via web from George’s posterous

passaggiato continuo: work life balance

I was talking with our Head of Elearning at Brookes about why I find Twitter a-good-thing. He worked for many years in Italy. I described Twitter as the passaggiato of the Internet. I have also heard it described as the virtual office corridor or the space around the water cooler. But, this led me to a wider reflection about public and private spheres, the work-life balance and third spaces.

The work-life balance discourse takes the work space and sets it apart from all the others that might operate in a person’s life. This move, however, privileges work and might be seen as a oppressively structuring move, which in third space theory, anyway, gives work an equal weight to at least two other spaces: the domestic and the individual/transgressive third space.

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