Category Archives: Learning Technology

Towards a new education?

I asked Richard Murphy a question on Twitter after reading his post, “It’s not just a new politics we need: we need a new economics too.”
“And a new education?”
He replied “Almost certainly”.

This “new education” has to lie in what Murphy calls “collective” or shared narratives: “… where the individual seeks to achieve their purpose within the constraints that the planet now so very obviously imposes upon us… because achieving purpose is about substituting meaning for material consumption.” Narratives make meaning. Narrative must replace material consumption. As Max Tegmark (2014: 256) puts it, “… nature contains many types of entities that are almost begging to be named.”

I am leaning on Murphy and Tegmark here because both come from disciplines that value mathematical descriptions of the world above what Tegmark calls “baggage” or words. And both reveal the uncertainty at the base of measure, or to put it another way, they explore the measure problem. How you define constraints, if there are any?

And that I suggest is as ever: new or old education is about making meaning. Making meaning gets us very quickly into measures: pictures, categories, ranges, constraints; about how many lions are there over there? Meaning without baggage? Or is it all always baggage? Pragmatically, at what point do our useful approximations break down into mere baggage?

I spent much of Thursday and Friday last week immersed in dimensions of digital leadership in higher education, represented diagramatically. I started writing about this here. The base for this diagrammatic thinking was the range between “Visitor” and “Resident” in or to or in respect of/with reference to the digital. This model was constructed by Dave While and Alison leCornu several years ago in response to the “Native/Immigrant” model proposed by Presnky. There are other typologies, such as the “voyeur/flaneur” of dana boyd (2011) but the Jisc Co-designers find the visitor-resident one productive and useful.

To get the workshop talking and thinking together, the workshop facilitators laid another axis at 90 degrees to the visitor-resident x-axis. They labelled the upper end of the range “Personal” and the lower end “Institutional”. And this was the end of my messy thinking in my last post.

Tools as spaces as practises

Tools as spaces as practises

The next day we started again with a slightly rephrased map, where the top element was changed: “Individual” replaced “Personal” and rather than our own “digital capability” we were asked to map our institution’s.

Figure 1

Figure 1

It immediately struck my colleague, Richard Francis, that a small circle in the centre might represent the “disengaged learner” and that more “pressure” outward along any axis could be construed as a transformation of some sort.

Figure 2

Figure 2

I then observed that just maybe there were limits outward in some directions. It struck me that a person who was increasingly a visitor to one’s own individuality might lack self awareness (top left. And, in the same way travel too far lower right and a person might be in danger of becomming fully institutionalised.

Figure 3

Figure 3

Both these outer areas might break the “Identity and Wellbeing” circle suggested by the Jisc’s model of Digital Capability

6 Elements

6 Elements of Digital Capability

The last move in this opening development was to observe that the boundaries were at least elastic: that pressures towards self awareness might press inward while counterveiling pressures might push outward. And that these spaces might be characterised in various ways. Richard Francis proposed that being a visitor to one’s self from time to time might be construed as reflection rather than a tendency towards solipciism.

Figure 4

Figure 4

At this point in the morning the facilitators asked us to consider “openness” and “authenticity”. Richard Francis asked if perhaps the visitor-resident continuum might be relabelled “consumer-producer”? It struck me that an urge towards production and self-actualising transformation seemed to produce something like a wave or flow of force through the model, rupturing the membranes inward from the left to outward on the right. We realised that there was a relatively narrow band on either side of each of the main axes. We called the horozontal band the “Mean of engagement”: more or less individual and more or less institutional. We called the vertical band the “Mode of action”: more or less visitor and more or less resident. We also noticed an impact axis punching in another dimensionfrom lower left towards upper right. It appeard that the far left might be characterised by a lack of authenticity:. As one approached outer limits various pejorative warnings began to attach themselves to the image: at the outer and upper left solipcism and maybe hyper-capitalism dwelt, while at the upper right fully resident in individualism lurked the bully and the narcissist, with no self-control. There was a sweet spot for us upward and rightward from the centre where we put terms like open engagement, community, access and authority, while authoritarian by way of contrast fell out somewhere lower right.

Ruptured matrix

Ruptured matrix

We began to see institutional functions appear: assessment and the VLE seemed to occupy a backwater and the digital impact criteria of attention and presence firmly resided within the mean of engagement.

So all this was very satisfying as a means of understanding our world, but now the challenge is to turn it into action.



danah boyd. (2011). Dear Voyeur, Meet Flâneur… Sincerely, Social Media.” Surveillance and Society 8(4), 505-507

Sharks and TELephants


Caribbean Reef Sharks

The challenge for technology enhanced learning (TEL) is that it not be used to impoverish people. Let me begin to explain.

I can help you teach. I may be deluded, of course, but it is none the less something I believe and something that I can act on with an established and evolving repertoire. I have led a teacher education programme for lecturers in higher education for the past seven years. I can design programmes to help you teach, I can put on courses, stand in front of a class, work one-to-one and strive to help teachers elicit their own inner teacher. So why am I giving up an established role teaching teachers in order to enter the waters of “technology enhanced learning” (TEL)?

I thought I wanted a challenge! For myself, for the team and the department I felt it was important that I move on from the job I have done since about 2008. And of course, I have been splashing in those waters for I long time. In 1983 I arrived at Oxford with an electric typewriter. In 1986 I left with an MPhil and a Apricot “portable” computer. Arguably one of the most important things I learned over those three years was how to use a word processor and a printer. But technology enhanced learning? What does that mean? Arguably everything and nothing. And this is my first challenge. Wikipedia conflates “Elearning” and “Educational Technology” with “Technology Enhanced Learning“. It is worth while reading the first 200 or so words of this article.

TEL is a term that stimulates the production of complexity. It also, as a consequence, stimulates in many people the opposite desire: forBlind_men_and_elephant2 simplicity. Like the blind men and the elephant,  there are many parts.
and many people, who want to declare TEL to be one or another of the many things it could be: from pencils to iPads, to QR codes and smart cards. New! New! Shiny! Shiny! Or so far out in front that the string and baling wire are hanging off. Or simply the human condition. But, what ever it is, it has to be better (enhanced) than something else. But, better than what?

Can we posit technology-free learning? What would that look like? Among the parts of the TELephant is that which threatens established practices and identities: that which makes some people feel they can no longer teach well, that which makes some people feel diminished not enhanced, that which makes some people feel they would rather be rid of all this “technology” (whatever it is). To enter into this debate in this way brands me as a Luddite. But this is a badge that I have to be proud, now, to wear. Remember, Luddites were not against technology. They were against technology being used to impoverish people. Which brings me back to sharks and the main challenge: money and power.




Teaching conference #fslt15

Reflecting mid-week in the fifth and last week of First Steps into Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (FSLT). In four one-hour webinars, two on Monday and two on Tuesday, I have seen and participated in 12 Virtual Conference presentations by participants in week 5 of this open online course. And, for the first time I can remember, I let out rock-and-roll whoops. Not something often said about teaching conferences. In part this was because I can take credit for some of this course design and it didn’t totally break down; in part it was because the platform has just about stood up; in part because the level of digital capability of the participants has for many broken through the novelty barrier. But mostly because these were among the 12 best presentations I have seen and participated in. Well argued, evidenced, structured, illustrated and in scope for time (not over the “wordcount”).

Continue reading

Analytics are not relationships

Just read Niall Sclater’s literature review for JISC: Code of practice for learning analytics: A literature review of the ethical and legal issues. The report asks a lot of important questions. And it mentions, albeit in passing in the “Rationale” section, what for me is the key issue: “Greater trust and a better relationship with the people you collect information about.”

But that word “relationship” masks the hard human issue about education and learning that no amount of data will resolve. Ultimately “authentic” relationship is between embodied (or formerly embodied, in the case of dead writers) individual humans. I don’t want to get all Bakhtinian about it, but while analytics may help ask questions, they will not provide the solutions.

A problem we uncover when surveying students (either “failing” students, or students on “failing” courses) is that they do not feel that their teachers know them or care about them. I do not think these students will be impressed if the response is to fix the broken relationship with an algorithm.

At best analytics can help start a conversation. People have to be willing to take the conversation on. That is: people, not institutions. Analytics may help pinpoint areas where hard work needs to be done, but are not likely to make that work any easier.

Management wants “the” answer to achieving particular mandated targets in order to protect or augment resources (or consolidate and preserve “power”). People (learners and teachers) are not trusted to do this “consistently” (as if they ever could!). So it is hoped that algorithms will: a) discover the right answer and then b) enforce a solution in line with targets and outcomes (which shift with the political wind).

We must not let loss of trust be simply collateral damage.

Other important contributions to the discussion

Diversity in Higher Education

At a recent workshop, we were asked to reflect on how we experienced diversity through the PCTHE. This is a contribution to that discussion.

I observe that on this course for new lecturers in higher education, diversity is governed by employment, but that shouldn’t deter our engagement with equality, diversity, accessibility: values we assert. We assert that we practice equality, diversity and accesibility through inclusivity. I do not want to call out those whose physiognomy might mark them as “Other”. We are all “Other”. But despite good intentions, we appear not to be all that diverse. Gender is balanced, but “colour” is not. And I use that term, colour as possibly less problematicaly marked than race or ethnicity. We could argue that the PCTHE should be extra enabling of individual diversity but we appear to follow rather than lead. (As an aside, the University has recently signed up to implement the Race Equality Charter Mark.)

In the workshop, we were asked to write a story related to diversity: short, true and relevant.

Mine arises  from three observations of exchanges I had. One with a participant in a wheelchair. She was very engaged, a scientist, and advocate for accessibility. I am a cyclist. I like a good set of wheels. So, I remarked that she had a nice set of carbon fiber, aerodynamic wheels on the chair. “Nice wheels, ” I said. Her reaction got me thinking. “All you guys see is the wheels!” She said a lot more, as well about commenting on clothing and looks. I apologised. I had hoped I had found a space – a third space? – that we could connect on, that could expose one point of difference and get beyond it in both our particularities. But it is complicated being embodied. On another occasion, at a committee meeting I assumed a black man had a role supporting BME participation. He supports all student representation. The third, personally, has to do with my beard. I grew it last February. After 6 weeks or so, men began to comment on my appearance, Men don’t do this. (Do they?) Beards appear to license men to be kind to one another.

These incidents, cause me to reflect on my often unexamined underpinnings that are still not sufficiently touched by training and profession of values: to respect individual learners and diverse learning communities, to promote participation and equality of opportunity in HE, and to acknowledge the wider contexts within which higher education operates. I am more reticent now. Less inclined to remark on elements of diversity embraced within the law and to focus on diversity of epistemology as being the main thing of relevance to education. But we have to note that one’s embodied cultural identity cannot help but to affect one’s epistemology. We know what we know as who we are.












#Design 4 Learning 2014

Semi live , late blogging from the Design for Learning Conference, 27 November 2014, The Open University, Milton Keynes.

Dr Tessa Eysink, University of Twente, Keynote “Learner performance in inquiry learning environments”

Work in progress comparing Inquiry learning with expository instruction. The research was focused on the design and use of small Learning Objects in Psychology: 60 of them. The topic “Classical conditioning”, “used world-wide” was chosen for the trial. The underlying issue to be addressed was that learners find it hard to generate hypotheses interpret data, collect data, and so on. Therefore, learning must be supported.

What other processes are there? Tessa outlined four approaches all of which were purported to improve learning. (Some do. Some don’t.) All appeared very cognitivist in their underlying epistemology.

  • Inquiry Learning
  • Hypermedia Learning
  • Observational Learning
  • Exploratory Learning

The trial models were all implemented in the same VLE and “Only the instructional method differed.” This, to me is questionable. The implementations all looked the same at arm’s length, though each was described as a separate environment. Learners were described as of high, middle and low ability. This categorisation was presented as unproblematic. The “High ability” learner was the norm. The other two differed in degree to which they resiled from the norm.

“Inquiry Learning” was “Problem-based Learning” “Hypermedia Learning” was expository or didactic, content-led learning: read all about it, where “reading” may be replaced by consume hypermedia. “Observational learning” was, in essence, apprenticeship or knowledge engineering. Learning comes from observing (or watching a video of…) an expert and emulating or decoding the practice. “Exploratory learning” appeared little different from Inquiry learning. PBL without the problem; self-directed hypermedia learning (?).

A few lessons were presented.

  • In the trials Inquiry learning was the most effective and efficient. No surprises, there. While I agree with the lesson, nevertheless it was annoying to see the exposition of a foregone conclusion.
  • Generating the subject matter by the students (Learner-led curriculum) leads to learning gain. This was interesting, but if supported by evidence, I did not notice it.
  • It appeared that the trials were focussed on providing tailored instruction for high ability learners: opens the way to complex, abstract assignments. But questions inclusivity?
  • Modelling practice is a helpful adjunct to PBL. But this session modelled expository practice, not inquiry learning.

At the end of the conference, key contributors were asked for three things: a hunch, a wish, and a prediction. My hunch, wish and prediction:

  • Hunch: what is needed to design instruction is not so much research (leading to the formulation of a grand narrative)  but sensitive observation in the the learning context (petits receipts): in the classroom, action learning, etc
  • Wish: educators would learn that everyone is equally remarkable, wonderful and wise to the ways  of their world.
  • Prediction: Performance monitoring dashboards will not improve learning.

Something of a synthesis

I attended and wrote about four professional development events this week.

And I gave a keynote at the Solstice Conference at Edge Hill University on 5 June 2014. Slides are here.

In this post I begin to instrumentalise my synthesis of critical educational development points, which I suggest are underpinned by and support the themes (possibly threshold concepts)  that emerged from the events above. [You might like to watch this video by Doug ward on Synthesis as a threshold concept.]

There is strong empirical evidence for the benefits of dialogic: epistemic and suggestive feedback. Deliberative reflection arises from and is a skill for distributed collaboration. Peer writing, co-authoring towards shared understanding, is participatory, dialogic, epistemic and may be suggestive. Through interior dialogue and the essentially dialogic nature of literacies  we have dialogue with the past: teachers, writers, memories, culture. Curricula, too, are participatory, evaluative, dialogic, social and self-determined. The convener, participants and curriculum are in tension in an environment of ambiguity, concern, community, power and politics. Methodologically, critical ethnographies provide the essential richer picture and learning needs stewardship.

The framework looks like this:


Dialogue is at the heart. There are three axes running through dialogue:

  1. experience and activity
  2. participation and outcomes
  3. reflection and community.

And there are 12 further triads, each with dialogue at their apex:

  1. experience and reflection
  2. reflection and outcomes
  3. outcomes and activity
  4. activity and community
  5. community and participation
  6. participation and experience
  7. experience and outcomes
  8. reflection and activity
  9. outcomes and community
  10. activity and participation
  11. community and experience
  12. participation and reflection.

In each section that follows, I state the principle and then pose the questions, mostly in a “How do you …” style; “Have you considered …?”

Learning is active

Learning is active, an aggregation of multiple individual and unique actions and interactions of people with knowledge, tools and contexts. How do you:

  • incorporate activity into any learning design?
  • decide what activity is useful?
  • engage “micro” activity patterns (e.g. 20 minute cycles) with wider (session, course, life-course) activity patterns?
  • select appropriate tools?
  • use frameworks (approaches, templates, learning plans, etc.) to support activity design and implementation?

Learning is dialogic

Learning is dialogic: individuals share, negotiate, discuss and contend with texts (multimedia), self and others (peers, hierarchies). How do you:

  • facilitate conversation and collaboration with and between students (student-tutor and student-student contact) face-to-face or at distance; one-to-one and in groups?
  • develop academic discourse (multimedia/multimodal, writing/producing) and give feedback for learning in all modes?
  • encourage interior dialogue?

People are different

People are different (diverse identities) in many ways: demographically (age, sex, national origin, etc), as well as culturally and epistemologically (education tradition, world view, doer/reflector, multiple intelligence, multiliteracy, learning preferences, etc). How do you accommodate learner and learning diversity?

  • Demographic (legal, language, social, accessible)?
  • Epistemological (orientation to knowledge and learning)?
  • Identity and community?
  • Goal orientation?

Learning is experiential

Learning is experiential, it draws on everyone’s experience. How do you incorporate:

  • Work-based learning?
  • Life-wide learning?
  • Transitions?

Learning is reflective

Learning is reflective. Reflection happens in cycles (dialogue with self and others): student life-cycles, action learning cycles, assessment and feedback cycles. How do you:

  • Incorporate reflection, individually and in groups (professional, academic, ad hoc)?
  • Help students have a voice for their experience and outcomes?
  • Acquire peer and colleague contribution and feedback?
  • Include practice and theory?

Learning takes place in communities

Learning takes place in communities or groups of people (institutions, disciplines), settings (classrooms, work-places, online, etc) have community development aspects where there are roles (teacher, student, admin), and rules (tacit and explicit). How do you:

  • involve prior learners, disciplinary colleagues and trans-disciplinarity in programmes of study?
  • Incorporate wider notions of identity and citizenship, and shared (or examined) values?
  • Include core texts and narratives of the community of inquiry?
  • Develop role-based competencies?

Learning is participatory

Learning is participatory: Everyone is learning. How do you:

  • Encourage differential participation: peripheral, core, guest, “lurker”?
  • Acknowledge your own and your students’ memory, feelings and opinions?
  • Ensure authenticity to learners points of origin, disciplinary knowledge base, and practice as it is in the field?

Learning is outcomes-led

Learning is outcomes-led. There are curricula (No curriculum is a curriculum.) Many curricula are underpinned by wider professional and regulatory frameworks codified in law and customary practice. Outcomes are assessed and evaluated, often by other agencies. There may, of course be many “unintended outcomes”, many of which may well be beneficial, though not necessarily expressed in the curriculum. How do you:

  • Refer to benchmarks and standards; codes of practice?
  • Assess your learners?
  • Engage learners with criteria?
  • Develop communities of assessment practice?


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…!


Feedback online

There is an active conversation about teaching online, teaching teachers online and teaching about giving feedback online to people who teach online and face to face.

I am attending an online conference: Giving Feedback to Writers Online. International and Virtual Conference 26th June 2014- 9.30am-2pm BST (now!). Content now available here.

Teresa Guache of the Open University of Catalunya is giving the keynote on giving feedback on academic writing online. “Loads of things for thought,” says Marion Waite. Teresa suggests a multi-modal approach using synchronous and asynchronous academic multimedia. Teresa provides excellent empirical evidence for the benefits of dialogic: epistemic and suggestive feedback.

I also attended the Solstice conference, where there was a session on online feedback in all dimensions. They had an excellent feedback instrument (discourse instrument: form) to collect pre-feedback, framing information, in session discourse analysis, and post-session semi-structured discussion. (this is in paper only on ALG02 table).

Clara O’Shea and Tim Fawns from Edinburgh wants us to experience what their students do. Move is into writing guidance we might give one another. Living the experience. Part time students who are doing a programme over 2 to 5 years. Online assessment module: classwide PBworks wiki-based assessment. Self selected groups of five. Group has to produce 5,000 word multi-modal ; co-authoring and critical friending other groups produces a class-wide grade. Is any of this peer marked? Peer writing: co-authoring towards shared understanding is participatory, dialogic, epistemic and may be suggestive. The polls are interesting, but the mode of the instrument is being pushed to its limit.

Ros Stuart-Buttle speaks about church-school leaders online course (3,000 people over ten yeard!). Encourages online collaboration as well as interior dialogue. This is an important dialogue to emphasise in professional reflection. Ros distinguishes between individual private writing (journal shared only with the teacher) and public (blogging) to promote interior dialogue. “The students need to be advised to have a private and a public reflective space…” summarises sue schutz in the chat. It is through the interior dialogue that we have dialogue with the past: writers, memories, culture. Through interior dialogue the essentially dialogic nature of Language can be subject of understanding (Bakhtin, Bhabha). Deliberative reflection must be a part of distributed collaboration. Ros takes a critical ethnographic approach. Has analysed over 500 documents. The prompts she gave at the start of the project were closed and directive. Soon realised that this made for a good forum discussion but not what she wanted from a reflective journal. Moved away from explicit and concrete task to throw the topic back on the learner to interrogate in their own context, with reference to the study materials, wider reading (the literature), peers (colleagues and students), as well as own experience (Brookfield’s lenses again).

John Hillsdon explores more philosophical and existential aspects of writing. Acknowledges his own impostership. Mixes synchronous and asynchronous discussion in online writing retreat. “On the crest of a wave… a threshold moment.” Existence and presence are linked. Brings in Habermas. Ideally humans can achieve communication and this is emancipatory (improvement). Uses Activity Theory as instrumentalisation of social constructivism as a means of developing emancipatory learning. Are emancipation and improvement equivalent? For distributed cognition see Gavriel Salomon.

Salomon, Gavriel, ed. 1993. Distributed Cognitions: Psychological and Educational Considerations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Had to return to my own online feedback task!

Great conference.

Creating active open online courses (OOCs)

My second stab at disseminating our thoughts about open online courses and the pedagogical implications of open courses is in this abstract submitted to the ALT-MOOC-SIG.

The workshop addresses SIG themes:

  • Growing your own Mooc
  • Designing & planning for ‘massive’

In the workshops participants will

  • Identify & share examples from experience of new learning designs & spaces
  • Synthesise or adopt an explanatory framework (model) for dialogic (M)OOCs
  • Apply their framework to designing, delivering and supporting open online courses.

The wider aim of the workshop is to promote open academic practice through OOCs.

Oxford Brookes University is developing and offering open online courses in a range of subjects. These short courses of four to six weeks duration are founded on group & individual activity. Participants engage in sustained discussion with ideas & people for about 2 to 3 hours a day, for 2 or 3 days a week (about 10 hours a week). Like all our courses, our OOCs are:

  • Activity-based: we do & make things in groups, using online tools
  • Experiential: tutors & participants draw on their experience
  • Dialogic: we talk together both synchronously (real time, e,g, in webinars) & asynchronously (e.g. discussion boards & social networks)
  • Participatory: tutors are present & engaged as participants
  • Community-based: linked to disciplines & relevant communities in work & society.
  • Peer evaluated
  • Outcomes-led: structured around curricula & aims, mapped, & in some cases accredited, to UK Higher Education frameworks.

Activities & Timings

  1. A troublesome threshold between the utopian & the real: open OOCs as heterotopia
  2. Examples of heterotopia in your teaching & your institution (Small group, facilitated discussion & feedback from 4 or 5 perspectives)
  3. Creative appropriation: blended learning as third space. Learners create their own learning environments outside, inside & in-despite of institutional intentions.
  4. What works: tools, roles, norms & community: applying discipline to creativity, responsibly, in OOCs
  5. Synthesis & final questions.