Archive for March, 2008

links for 2008-03-25

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

The youth of today…

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

More stats in the form of a YouTube video (via HeyJude) on what kids/teenagers are using technologies for, also links to a series of online publications (MIT Press) on different facets of research into this topic - will enjoy browsing these!

Remember the milk

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

I run hot and cold about ‘to do’ lists… sometimes I am totally rigorous about using them and get great satisfaction ticking items off, then I get bored, neglect the list and find when I return most of the entries refer to projects long finished, papers never written, or holidays done and dusted…. expect for the ‘DO EXPENSES’ that one always seems to be current - sigh… Now is this a function of me and the way I work (or perhaps more correctly the way I don’t work) or something to do with the tools just not quite hitting the spot? So today I’m going to give another tool a go, one which I have been meaning to try for some time, but reading Alex Little’s blog prompted me into action. Remember the milk looks pretty promising so far, I like the ability to categorise into different interests and also the option to tag. So let’s see how long this one lasts. Ohh  I mustn’t forget to add ‘Do expenses’ ;-)

links for 2008-03-21

Friday, March 21st, 2008

Mapping formal online learning

Friday, March 21st, 2008

This week I attended a BECTA seminar. The venue was the Commonwealth club in London, what an amazing place, it appeared to be a labyrinth of rooms underground – it never ceases to amaze me how many meeting venues there are in London! The focus of the seminar was reporting on the findings to date from a study that BECTA have commissioned being carried out by researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University. Cathy Lewin and Nicola Whitton gave an overview of the work, which is trying to identify the nature of formal online learning. Initial work including a literature review of related research looking at learners’ use of technologies. They have undertaken eight very rich case studies across a range of different schools and colleges; each one is adopting a different approach to utlilising technologies to support learning. Their research questions focused around three main themes (flexibility, models and impact). Their findings to date are around five main areas: 

  • Organisational limitations (eg lack of flexibility, workload models, technologies available), 
  • Regulatory limitations (eg procurement, assessment, etc),  
  • What are appropriate models for structuring learning to support autonomy?,  
  • Repacking of content vs. ownership,  
  • Pragmatic drivers (eg space limitations, coursework management, etc.)

The final one reminded me of a recent post from George Siemens, where he questions the predominate mantra ‘pedagogy first’. He goes on to ask the question ‘what is sound pedagogy?’, arguing that ‘pedagogy is not the starting point with technology, context is’. He concludes

Let’s abandon the somewhat silly notion of pedagogy first and recognize that the choice of technology is driven by many contextual factors and therefore context is what we are evaluating and considering when we first start talking about possible technology to use. Then, after we have selected technology, we can start talking about pedagogy. Pedagogy is just not a practical starting point for deciding the technology we should use.

In recent interviews we have carried out with teachers about how they go about design, we found much the same; no one started with some esoteric pedagogical framework – design was messy, creative, iterative, and yes driven by mundane pragmatics. However that didn’t mean that their designs weren’t pedagogically informed, just that it was implicit and infused the whole of the design process. 




The MILO framework
Cathy and Nicola showed how they are using the MILO framework they have developed as a means of visually making sense of the different patterns of technology use across their case studies. The framework consists of four quadrants, each quadrant had two associated factors –learner tools (content, activities) communication (teacher-student, student-student) and assessement (formative, summative) and teacher tools (pedagogic, administration). It’s possible to map on ways in which online and traditional methods are used to support the development and delivery of a course and hence see the degree of overlap. It seems to provide a nice, simple way of visualising different uses of technologies and seeing where the emphasis is  - ie is the focus on using technology for administrative purposes, or for assessment, or to support different forms of communication? It seems to me the framework could be a useful tool in assessing institutions’ levels of ‘preparedness for e-learning’, ie how sophisticated their use of technologies is.  They have produced a briefing paper which gives more details about the framework. If you want to quote this I suggest contacting Cathy or Nicola to get the correct reference details.        

links for 2008-03-17

Monday, March 17th, 2008

links for 2008-03-16

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

Microsoft’s Grava

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

Microsoft had a launch of their new Silverlink product this week at Bletchley Park, which a few people from the OU went to. Will Woods has done a useful overview about it. They also talked about Microsoft’s new authoring environment Grava, another learning design tool to add into the mix! I think the fact that Microsoft are investing in this area is yet more evidence of the increasing recognition of the need for support structures to facilitate the design process and hence tools to help teachers make choices about creating learning activities. It will be very interesting to see how this product develops over time and how the general mix of current learning design tools pan out. Sheila MacNeill, reflecting on the recent JISC review of the pedagogical planners they have funded (I’ve blogged about this herehere and here), concludes with the following:

While both prototypes offer a different (but complementary) approach to planning, they are both very much at the prototype stage. A key question that keeps arising is what is it that they actually produce? XML output allows a level of interoperability between the two just now but this needs to be extended much further so that there is a useful output which can relate to other institutional systems such as VLEs, CMS etc - “where’s the export to moodle” button was heard a few times during the day:-) During the feedback sessions it was clear exporting and importing data between systems will be crucial if such tools are to have any chance of having take up in institutions.     

As Sheila says its important to remember these are just prototypes, we have a long way to go in terms of really  being able to provide flexible and creative support systems which will actually make a difference to how teachers design - that truly is one of the holy grails of our time to my mind!

links for 2008-03-15

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

The ELESIG community

Saturday, March 15th, 2008


Compendium map of discussions

I have already mentioned that I went to the launch of a new special interest group for those researching learners’ experience of using technologies. My role during the day was to try and capture some the discussions in Compendium and then, along with Derek Morrison and Carol Higgison, summarising some of the key points - not easy given the diversity of the discussions! You can see Rhona Sharpe and Malcolm Ryan are deep in thought here!! The full Compendium may is available via the OU’s OpenLearn labspace area.


Click on any of the icons in the map will either take you to another map or will open a document, image etc. As you can see it was a pretty packed day and it would be impossible to recapture here the depth of the discussion and the breadth of topics covered. I particularly liked the ‘Gallery of influences’ activity. Each person thought about what had triggered their interest in looking at the learner experience and were asked to bring along an ‘artefact’ that represented this. It was so interesting to see the diversity of factors.  If you are interested in finding out more or joining in, go to the ELESIG ning site!