Archive for November, 2007

A VC’s perspective

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

Entertaining talk from Van Gore Vice Chancellor of Solent University on the disjointedness of IT from his perspective. He gave six mini stories - demonstrating the different agendas, confusing techie language and the sheer complexity of the IT needs for a modern university.  He finished by showing us some of the videos they have produced to help guide students through using the university’s IT systems. The videos look great and as a nice touch were produced on the whole by students from the university. 

UCISA conference

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

HeidiI’m currently at the UCISA conference in Southampton, having been suggested as a speaker by Heidi Fraser-Krauss (pictured here with David Sweeney from Royal Holloway). I don’t normally go to UCISA conferences but it’s been really interesting getting a different take on the issues associated with use of technologies from an institutional support perspective. In my talk yesterday I used some of our learner experience research as a means of looking at the implications of new technologies (and the ways in which students are using them) on institutional IT infrastructure and support. I finished with the following slide outlining what I think are the key challenges facing institutions. Heidi and I are both members of JISC’s Organisational Support committee which deals with a lot of these issues in the programme of work it manages. The first bullet point for the terms of reference encapsulates the focus of what JOS covers  ”investigate the human, organisational and legal issues related to the use of ICT in further and higher education and research”. As an aside the after dinner speaker was Dennis Taylor - I normally hate after dinner speakers but I have to say Dennis was hilarious!!!


Past its sell by date

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

Martin Weller has picked up on my post about the limits set on institutional email  - see his latest but also there are some interesting discussions in the comments. It does make you wonder if email is past its sell by date. I can’t help feeling that with the amount of email now being sent that it’s just not up to the job and that there has to be a more efficient way of dealing with communications. Email is increasingly becoming a real, real chore… But with email so embedded into institutional cultures how are we going to shift to something better???

The hidden dangers of Web 2.0

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

Just came across the following presentation from Stuart Lee  which outlines some of the potential negatives about Web 2.0.

SlideShare | View | Upload your own


links for 2007-11-22

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

links for 2007-11-18

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

Tool and task affordances

Saturday, November 17th, 2007


Following on from the last post, remedy another thing I have been playing around with in the last few years is using identification of the pedagogical affordances of tools and tasks as a means of selection criteria in the creation of learning activities. The figure lists ten common pedagogical affordances that a teacher might want to promote - the opportunity to provide students with an authentic experience, cialis getting students to critically reflect, buy enabling them to communicate or collaborate with others, etc. Then the idea is that as part of the design process you decide to what extent particular tools or tasks promote these pedagogical affordances and use this as a basis for tool and task selection in the creation of a learning activity. We tried this out as an exercise in some learning design workshops we ran in the OU earlier this year and the feedback was generally positive, i.e that participants found this a useful and novel way of thinking.     

Tools and pedagogy

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

Mapping pedagogy, tools and activities is something I have been interested in for a long time. What is the relationship between these things and can understanding/articulation of this relationship help use design better learning activities? So I really like Steve Warbuton’s diagram about interpreting technologies in use. He maps technologies along three dimensions 1) isolated-social, 2) active-passive and 3) formal-informal. Some of the examples he gives include a wiki as a collaborative document, an RSS feed about a course announcement, a blog as a reflective journal. What’s nice about this is the dimensions bringing out the characteristics mapped to the use in situ – ie the context will change where something is located on the 3D matrix. This really resonates with a framework we developed. (A description of some of this is in a Computers and Education article we wrote). 

 We reviewed different learning theories and came up with three key dimensions 1) individual – social, 2) active – passive, and 3) information – experience and then mapped where different learning theories were situated in relation to this.

We had a nice table in the paper showing how different learning theories were situated in different parts of the framework,  so behaviourism was individual, passive and information focussed, whereas experiential learning was high on social, active and experience based. In some further work I went on to look at how technologies in context could be mapped onto this framework - in much the same way that Steve has done. For example have a look at some of the final slides from a presentation I did at Queen’s University which shows that a) a learning object moves around the framework depending on how it’s being used and b) how ‘chat’ which you would ordinarily think of as high on the active, social dimensions, moves to the passive, individual dimensions when the archive of the chat is used by an individual after the event as an information source (something we found in some of our evaluation studies on online courses). This got me interested in trying to map – pedagogies, tools and activities and I spent a lot of time doodling tables and matrices trying to look at the relationship between these. However I always ran into the sand because although initially this seems an obvious thing to do as a means of articulating the affordances of tools and how they can be used for learning the problem is that the inter-relationship of these three things is very context specific. So it’s the ‘it depends thing’. I can use a pencil as a tool to write with (which you could argue is one of its most prominent affordances) but I can also use it as a teaching aid to talk about the properties of lead, to discuss the social evolution of tools for writing, or to spark a debate on modern design. So is chat better for communicating than a discussion forum? What are the pros and cons of each? It depends… sigh… {As you can see this is still very much a work in progress!!}


Your mailbox is over its size limit!

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

Miranda awoke to the latest hit from Beijing Princess at maximum volume. The aging speakers attached to her brother’s old Zune Plus did little for the music. Accepting the inevitable, viagra Miranda pointed her iPhone at the Zune. The girl band died, cure only to be replaced by the audio track from Doom 5.0. Lost in the sound of a Martian apocalypse, Miranda reflected on the disadvantages of a terabyte of storage. It didn’t pay to shuffle: you never knew what you might find…

This quote is from the opening of a paper by Barnes and Tynan looking at the implications of new technologies in education and by a strange twist of reality mirroring fiction, John Naughton posted  a while ago about the fact that its now possible to get terabyte hard drives! [As an aside I sympathise with the fictional Miranda, when a level six audio clip from my Spanish playlist pops up whist the iPOD is on shuffle it totally freaks me out and simultaneously makes me feel quilty about not spending enough time on my Spanish “homework”!]

So why is one of the most frequent emails I get the one from my friendly ‘System Administrator’ with a big red exclamation mark ‘Your mailbox is over its size limit’. Here is one of these emails lovingly captured for prosperity.


Now ok you can get all superior on me and tell me to smarten my act and organise my emails. You can tell me it doesn’t take that long to transfer my emails to nicely categorised folders on my hard disc. You can tell me that if I was an efficient worker I would prioritise what I do and dedicate specific times in the day to dealing with my email, rather than ‘wasting my time twittering and blogging’ ;-) BUT why should I?? With storage now cheap as chips – where  is the justification for setting ridiculous low limits on institutional email inboxes – particularly when email is the official communication route for the institutions? Plus actually I do organise my folders but transferring things across takes time, thinking about where to put messages, or deciding whether to deal with them now or later. How many of us have spent whole days just fielding emails? And increasingly I am finding that I am relying more and more on the mac’s spotlight searching facility…

[As another aside this reminds me of a keynote I heard Eric Duval give a few years back I think at Edmedia where he was saying that hierarchical files structures and folders are pointless in the longer term as information increases and that metadata and good searching mechanisms is the way forward. And of course he is right but at the time his keynote made me mildly panic as I tried to imagine my laptop and email simply composed of a floating chaos of files and emails!!]

So why the limit? Where’s the justification? Isn’t this a case of the tail wagging the dog??

 OK rant over… ;-)


Barnes, C. and Tynan, B. (2007), The adventures of Miranda in the brave new world: learning in a Web 2.0 millennium, AL-J 15(3).


links for 2007-11-16

Friday, November 16th, 2007