Archive for August, 2008

JISC Curriculum Design programme

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

An announcement is now up on the JISC site of the 12 projects that have been funded under the new JISC Curriculum Design programme. Details of all the bids are online from the JISC site, ours is here. The projects represent a good spread of different types of institutions and reading through the outlines of the proposal offer a fantastic opportunity to explore innovative and creative approaches to curriculum design. Here is a summary from the JISC site about them:

A total of 55 bids were received for this call showing a high level of interest in this area of work, which included 7 bids from further education colleges. There were six submissions from Welsh institutions, one from Northern Ireland, five from Scotland and the remaining bids from institutions in England. Overall the quality of submissions was high with most bids demonstrating strong institutional commitment both in terms of funding and levels of involvement of senior staff. The JISC Learning and Teaching Committee funded a total of twelve proposals.    

New schemas for mapping pedagogy

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

Ariadne is a web-based professional magazine for information professionals which has been in existence since 1996 and publishes a range of articles on the use of technology in education every three months. I was asked by Richard Waller to do an article following the Eduserv foundation talk I did in May.  I focussed on the apparent disjuncture between the rhetoric of web 2.0 and current educational structures/systems and suggests some new approaches we have been trying to develop to address this mismatch and better map good pedagogy to potential use of tools. It’s now available online - thoughts welcome! This article will always remind me of a hot, summer’s day in Sardinia which is where the bulk of this article was written! ;-)

Mellow yellow

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

I didn’t particularly like yellow, but I have a new affection for it now! Yesterday morning when I arrived into work there was a large yellow envelope waiting for me. It was a confirmation letter from the JISC to say that we had been successful in the bid we put in for the recent JISC Curriculum Design call for proposals. For once I avoided the temptation of trying to come up with some dreadful acronym (previous disasters have included FICTION and LADIE – yuk). So the title is pretty unsexy to say the least “Support new models for Curriculum Design and pedagogic understanding by implementing social networking and technology-supported design innovation’. The opening paragraph gives an overview of the proposed focus of the project:

This bid aims to extend and apply a new learning design methodology, which adopts an evidence-based, multi-faceted approach to support innovative approaches to curriculum design. Strategic investment funds have been provided by the OU for Learning Design over the past year, so we have already developed an extensive set of resources, workshop guidelines, different methods of thinking about design and innovative tools. This bid will enable us to explore the use of these in-depth across a number of institutional contexts. It has strong senior management support, we want in particular to align with the OU’s current curriculum business model project (which is trialling six different curriculum models across all 8 faculties) along with related institutional aspirations concerned with the application of emerging technologies (such as roll out of the VLE, reuse of Open Educational Resources and the application of web 2.0 technologies through the SocialLearn project). The bid will enable us to trial the methodology in 4 other institutions and across two pan e-learning contexts (the Moodle and LAMS communities).

The project, worth £400k is part of the JISC’s E-learning Programme, in a new strand of work on Curriculum Design. The call for proposals indicated that JISC were planning to fund between 10 – 12 projects, so it will provide a really valuable opportunity to tackle in depth and over a reasonable timeframe promoting innovation in Curriculum Design, A sister programme on Curriculum Delivery has also been initiated.  We will be working with four other institutions – Brunel, Cambridge, London South Bank and Reading, who were ‘cluster c’ in the HE Academy pathfinder project that I was critical friend too (see previous postings about this, for example this and this). The JISC bid provides a nice opportunity to further the collaborations we have already developed as a group. We are giving a presentation about the Cluster C work at ALT-C in September.



jisc bid
Juliette, Simon and me
The bid will complement the existing work at the Open University, which is part of the OU Learning Design Initiative (OULDI). We are busy at the moment revamping our prototype social networking site for sharing learning and teaching ideas, and making updates to our visualisation tool for design, CompendiumLD. We are running three Designfests and a Cloudworks Summit in the nest month to capture designs and to gather views on the Cloudworks site – how it is designed and used, and how it might connect with other sites and initiatives. It’s a great team of people to work with – Andrew Brasher is leading on the CompendiumLD work, Simon Cross on the project management and empirical data, Juliette Culver on Cloudworks and Perry Williams, who is currently seeding the Cloudworks site. Also involved are Martin Weller (providing his usual web 2.0 guruness), Paul Clark (looking at the learner perspectives) and Patrick McAndrew (on application to OERs). Patrick and I are currently putting together a bid to the Hewlett foundation,  as a follow on the OpenLearn initiative. The focus will be to develop a network (OLnet) for researchers, users and developers of OERs “OLnet aims to foster a global network for sharing methodologies and evidence on the effectiveness of OERs”. A strong theme of the proposal is application of the learning design work we have done to date to the OER context. The latest draft of the proposal is here, comments welcome! So lots of exciting and complementary activities – will keep blogging as developments occur! Once we have the new Cloudworks site in place we plan to have a collective blog attached to that too.


A step forward for constructivism

Friday, August 15th, 2008

Really interesting paper on an environment for creating Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) by Wild et al. which I picked up from Terry Anderson’s blog.  As Terry says, the paper describes:

A markup language by which designers or learners create scripts of learning activities that in real time mashup a host of Web 2.0 tools that allow individual or groups of learners to create their own learning context and content. In the process, of course, they gain skills of media production, increase their social capital by expanding and deepening personal networks and create archives of artifacts available for retrieval by themselves and others.   

Learning Design Handbook now out!

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

 LD handbookIf you are looking for a mega door stopper as a present I have the perfect suggestion for you. The hefty two-volume Handbook of Research on Learning Design and Learning Objects: Issues, Applications and Technologies is now out published by IGI global. It’s not cheap at ~$495 so I suspect this is one to get through the library, but well worth a look. There are 43 chapters covering the latest in research and development activities on learning design and learning objects. The handbook boasts an impressive set of international authors (OK and me but I have got lots of pretty diagrams in my chapter and a Learning Activity Taxonomy!). 

Going with the ‘flow’

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

One of our PhD students – Binhui Shao is currently exploring whether to apply the concept of flow to looking at students’ use of different technologies. Flow theory has been developed by Csikszentmihalyi and others. Flow theory essentially is a concept used to describe

‘the holistic experience that people feel when they act with total involvement’ or ‘… flow – the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it’ (taken from

In her interviews with people about their experiences of flow writing papers, gaming, gardening and computer programming were all mentioned as times when people felt they had experienced flow. Certainly for me writing papers is definitely a time when I feel I am experiencing flow and it is interesting to reflect on the experiences I have had of writing two articles recently. The first is a paper I have just submitted for a conference on our Cloudworks – social networking for learning design work. The second is an article for Ariadne entitled ‘New schemas for mapping pedagogies and technologies’ which will be out soon.

The Cloudworks paper was a classic example of how I normally experience flow. I decided on a focus for the paper and started writing – oscillating between developing the structure of the paper and specific details in each of the subsections. I drew on a whole range of aspects of our Learning Design Initiative activities over the past year and a half – the conversations we have had in team meetings, or in smaller groups, the workshops and events we ran, exploration of the empirical data gathered, feedback from conference presentations, etc. In particular for this paper I was very aware of the conversations over the last few weeks: with Juliette Culver on the technical development of Cloudworks and in particular shifting from calling entities in the site ‘Cloudlets and Designs’ to ‘Clouds and Stormclouds’ (thanks to Karen Littleton for the latter suggestion one lunchtime!), with Perry Williams about forthcoming Cloudfests we are running and also with Simon Cross about the overall initiative and plans for the next phase of activities. The paper probably took about 4 or 5 days intense days writing – contributions from the rest of the team over this period helped to sanity check my initial version and also comments via this blog from an early draft helped to strengthen it. 

This description is probably fairly typical of how I go about writing things. One of the advantages is it means I can produce a lot of words relatively quickly. The downside is half of them are probably rubbish and the thing is normally littered with errors which I then find hard to detect because I read what I want to see rather than what is actually on the screen, Does this fit with anyone else’s experience or do people have alternative approaches?

In contrast for the Ariadne article I initially adopted a different approach. I wanted to focus the article around a presentation I did for the Eduserv conference in May. As the session has been recorded I thought it might be interesting to start writing the article from the presentation I gave so I started listening, essentially trying to transcribe the speech. After about a paragraph or so I realised this just wasn’t going to work. Then I tried an alternatively strategy. I decided to use MacDictate to ‘talk’ through the article. But again this just didn’t work. I found the speed of talking too slow in comparison with writing on the keyboard  - which I find is a little like playing a piano – your fingers whiz over the keyboard as you try and get your thoughts down on paper as fast as possible, So in the end I reverted to my standard approach. I locked myself in a room in Sardinia for a day and with the EduServ presentation upper most in my mind produced a first draft of the article.


Is there something more to this? What does it say about how papers and articles are produced and how the different techniques and media influence that production process? Or is it just my idiosyncratic approach to writing? Would welcome other people’s views! PS in writing this blog I went through much the same process as I described for the Cloudworks papers. I thought through the focus and general content for the post whilst lying in bed this morning and have now just sat for the last 15 mins or so writing. Actually I am not sure of the exact amount of time to be honest  - guess I have just been ‘in the flow’ ;-)

Social objects for sharing designs

Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

I’ve currently writing a paper to submit to the ASCILITE conference. The paper describes how we are using the notion of Social Objects as articulated by Engeström and others as a theoretical basis for the developing of a social networking site for sharing learning and teaching ideas and designs (Cloudworks). Thanks to Martin Weller for pointing this reference out to me, Martin has also blogged a number of times about how the notion of social objects might be applied in an educational context. Below is an extract from the current draft of the paper, would welcome thoughts!

Why do some social networking services work and others fail? Can we apply the best of web 2.0 principles to an educational context? More specifically can we use this as a means of shifting teaching practice to a culture of sharing learning ideas and designs? Can we harness the potential of technologies to create more engaging learning experiences for students? These are the key questions this paper addresses. We describe how we are using the concept of ‘object-orientated social networking’ to underpin the creation of a social networking tool, Cloudworks, for sharing learning ideas and designs. 


There have been countless examples of learning object repositories, open educational resource repositories, and databases of case studies and examples of good practice. However their impact on changing practice has been limited. A key issue is sustainability, end-users rarely add resources; the sites usually require an investment in terms of someone entering resources and maintaining the repository. In contrast, user generated content is a key principle of Web 2.0 tools such as Flickr, youtube and Slideshare; users add content because they want to share their photos, videos or presentations with others. Can we apply such principles to an educational context and create a social networking site for sharing learning and teaching ideas and designs? We believe that effective application of web 2.0 principles can provide a means of addressing the lack of uptake and sharing of learning and teaching ideas and designs.  This paper focuses on the Cloudworks tool and in particular how we are applying web 2.0 principles to encourage end-user participation. We will describe the current functionality of the tool, along with planned future developments and will make reference to findings from empirical data we have gathered from end-users in terms of their design behaviour and what kind of features they would like to see in a site like this.