Archive for March, 2012


Saturday, March 31st, 2012

It’s good to see JIME has been revitalised. Latest issue focuses on Open Educational Resources (OER) and includes a nice introductory piece on the nature of openness by Martin Weller. However, I think it is a shame that JIME hasn’t gone more ‘open’. When it was originally conceived it adopted a totally open review process. Authors knew who the reviewers of their papers were and could engage in a dialogue with them. I found this process very enlightening and felt the papers that went through this process were much stronger as a result. So come on JIME guys, be a bit adventurous! Go truly open! 

Yet another book

Friday, March 30th, 2012

OK! OK! I know I am mad…. but I am thinking of doing another edited book. I’d like to adopt a really open approach to this making draft versions of chapters available for others to comment on. Rhona Sharpe and Helen Beetham have adopted this with their second edition of the ‘Rethinking pedagogies’ book and have made the draft conclusion chapter openly available on Google Docs. So here are my very initial thoughts on content. What are your thoughts on this? Are there any areas that I am missing? Now I just need a catchy title and to get the people I have in mind to agree to be involved in this ;-)

1.     Introduction and context 

 Overview of openness 

  • Open resources 
  • Open courses
  • Open accreditation 
  • Open scholarship
  •  Open research 

 Overview of practices 


  •        Learner experiences 
  •       Teacher practices 
  • Digital literacies
  •       Learning design 
  •       Pedagogical patterns 
  •       Learning spaces 

Overview of technologies       

  • Social and participatory media
  • Virtual Learning Environments
  • Mobiles
  • Gesture and ubiquitous technologies
  •  Virtual worlds 
  • Games 

Overview of theory and methodology 

  • Socio-cultural perspectives 
  • Virtual ethnography
  • Learning analytics 
  • Actor Network Theory

Overview of pedagogies 

  • Associative and e-books
  • Connectivism
  • Rhizomatic learning 
  • Constructivist learning
  • Socially situated learning
  • Assessment
  • Inquiry-based learning
  • Design-Based Research


New book chapter!

Friday, March 30th, 2012


I have just received in the post a copy of a book that I have a chapter in with Giota and Rebecca on Cloudworks (Alevizou, Galley et al. 2012). It is a work up of a paper we presented at the Networked Learning conference in 2010. Giota gets most of the credit for this, she added some really insightful theoretical perspectives to analyse the interactions we have been seeing in our social networking site Cloudworks. Also mentioned in the chapter is the Community Indicators framework that Rebecca has developed, following a detailed review of the literature on communities in online spaces. This was part of a symposium on learning design, here is an overview of the symposium:

The goal of this symposium is to bring together experts in learning design and pedagogical patterns research to exchange their current views on learning design as well as their experiences in evaluating the application of their proposed approaches in practice. Four papers are included, which between them they cover different aspects of the following three themes: i) Approaches to visualising and representing design patterns, ii) Computational representation of enacted patterns and iii) Analyses of emerging enacted patterns. In particular we are interested in exploring how can designs be represented, shared and discussed, and how they might be used and by whom. The first paper acts as a position paper in relation to the remaining four. It provides an overview of different types of design representations and demonstrates how these can be used in different contexts. The second explores design aspects around creativity and collaboration. Collaborative design is also picked up in the third paper, but in the context of pedagogical patterns. The final paper looks at issues to do with sharing and discussing designs and puts forward a number of theoretical frameworks for understanding new emergent practices in web 2.0 spaces. The symposium will use the content of the papers as a basis for exploring the three themes and will attempt to draw out new insights into addressing these questions.

Modern networked learning environments have the potential to enhance significantly the student learning experience; offering new ways in which they can communicate and interact with each other and with their tutors. However, the sheer variety of new technologies available now is bewildering. Those tasked with designing learning experiences need new forms of guidance to take advantage of the affordances of new technologies and to make pedagogically informed design decisions. The learning design and pedagogical patterns research fields that have emerged in recent years are attempting to provide solutions to these issues. Learning design research is concerned with articulating and representing the design process and providing tools and methods to help designers in their design process (Lockyer et al., 2008). Pedagogical patterns research is concerned with elicited empirically derived good practice and representing that within a standard format according to the underlying pedagogical pattern principles (Retalis and Goodyear, forthcoming). This series of papers provides a snapshot of current thinking in these fields. The symposium will aim to draw out some common synergies across these fields. These fields are related, but distinct from instructional design research (Spector et al., 2008; Reigeluth et al. 2009); learning design because of its emphasis on the holistic design process and its alignment to a socio-cultural perspective and pedagogical patterns in terms of its derivation from Alexander’s work in Architecture.

Designing effective technology-enhanced learning environments in an efficient and affordable way is a demanding task, which requires creativity and a significant amount of expertise [Goodyear, 2002]. On the one hand, people new to e-learning design need advice from experts, experienced peers, and users so as to avoid investing a large amount of resources in ‘re-inventing the wheel’ or in creating solutions that may be educationally ineffective. On the other hand practitioners, instructional designers and content experts need to effectively collaborate for the joint development of learning designs thus leading to an increase of the quality of e-learning provision across Europe. Currently, several initiatives have been set up and a lot of attempts have been made in order to explore conceptualizations of learning designs such as IMS LD, educational modelling languages like EML, learning flow design patterns, pedagogical patterns and of course visual tools for creating learning designs. The learning design research community faces a big challenge: to find powerful ways of providing structured, teacher-friendly, formalized and visual representations of learning designs.

The paper is available online from the Open University’s research repository.


Alevizou, P., R. Galley, et al. (2012). Collectivity, performance and self-representation: analysing Cloudworks as a public space for networked learning and self-reflection. Exploring the theory, pedagogy and practice of networked learning. L. Dirckinck-Holmfeld, V. Hodgson and D. McConnell. New York, Springer: 75 - 98.



Follow the sun conference 2012

Friday, March 30th, 2012


So our Follow the Sun conference has now finished; 48 hours over three continents! We had an amazing set of keynote speakers, great discussions and participation in the chat room. Thanks to everyone for the contributions and hope you enjoyed the conference as much as we did. It was interesting participating via BDRA head quarters with others in the room, although a little disconcerting hearing people speak live and then slightly delayed online. BB collaborate worked really well and a special huge thanks to Simon Kear for providing excellent technical support and ensuring everything worked smoothly. Thanks also to all those in BDRA who helped with moderating etc (Ale, Pal, Jai, Gabi, Ming, Terese, Paul, Brenda). Thanks also to our colleagues in Oz and Canada for their contributions. I think this year’s focus on challenges in different disciplines and a focus on the future of learning was great and worked really well. Recordings of all the sessions are available from the conference website. Soooo ideas for a focus for next year’s conference?


Tuesday, March 27th, 2012


A fundamental characteristic of digital technologies is that they are networked and connected, providing users, tools and resources with a plethora of ways to interact. This connectivity is immense, forming in a sense a global neural network of information, dialogue and exchange, arguably we now have the capacity on a global scale to achieve Salomon’s notion of distributed cognition (Salomon 1993). The potential of such a vast, intelligent network for learning is clear; offering a plethora of ways in which learners and teachers can access and interact with information, and to communicate and collaborate. Nonetheless, the sheer complexity of the network also brings challenges. Despite the fact that arguably anything an individual wants to learn is available somewhere on the net, accessing a particular resource of relevance may be challenging to say the least. Furthermore, developing an appropriate digital identity online is a particular digital literacy skills learners and teachers need to develop. Being part of this network of others, means information can travel globally instantaneously. Learners and teachers need to make informed choices about how they communicate and need to recognise that what they are saying may go beyond their known bounded community. Think for example of the power of the Twitter network. One tweet sent to 3, 000 followers, may then be retweeted beyond that community to thousands of others. Table 1 lists some of the benefits and disadvantages of connectivity in terms of the implications for learning

Table 1: The implications of learning in a connected environment




Loss of individual identity

Multiple forms of communication

Loss of individual voice

Multiple forms of representation

Need for new sense making skills

Interconnected, horizontal, no hierarchical structure

Complex, no clear simple or correct route through


Danger of superficiality

Rich mechanisms for shared discourse

Danger of convergent memes dominating

Cultural diverse

Danger of cultural hegemony

Diversity of offerings, the long tail


The recent experience and evaluation of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) gives us some insights into the implications of learning in a global, connected environment. The number of learners who sign up for these courses is impressive (many thousands), the numbers who complete are much less so and indeed there is a marked downturn in participation as the courses progress. The ‘course organisers’ state that learners can participate with the course in a range of ways and that there is no standard learning pathway through. Therefore they can contribute to discussion forums or wikis, post comments on social networks, publish blog posts and comment on the blog posts of others. The organisers argue that this is a truly emancipatory style of learning, enabling each individual to cerate their own Personal Learning Environment.  There is no single route through a MOOC, they are horizontal, distributed and evolving by nature, offering a mechanism for supporting Rhizomatic Learning (Cormier 2008; Cormier 2011). The scale of the course means that participants can communicate with learners on a global scale. The design of MOOCs is learner centred, with no central teaching role.

Evaluation of participants’ experience of these courses is mixed. Whilst many value the concept and joined partly out of curiosity to see what interaction in such an open and connected learning network would be like, many quickly became disillusioned, finding it difficult to keep up. The sheer scale of MOOCs (which arguably have no beginning and no end) is considered bewildering for many, and it is all too easy to get lost or confused by the plethora of resources and communication channels.

Recognising that learning now takes place in this rich dynamic ecology of technologies is a fundamental challenge facing educators and in particular has implications for how learning is designed for in this context. How can we take account of the affordances of technologies in terms of their connectivity? How can we design to take account of the fact that the learning context is constantly changing and evolving, with new connections being made, and certain learning pathways being foregrounded over others? How do we miminise the risks associated with a connected environment? How do we avoid some of the pitfalls outlined above, such as: loss of individuality or voice, fragmentation, superficiality, convergence of thought, and cultural hegemony? Finally, how can we design given the sheer complexity, is design in any meaningful way possible?


Cormier, D. (2008). Rhizomatic Education : Community as Curriculum. Dave’s educational blog: education, post structuralism and the rise of the machines.

Cormier, D. (2011). Rhizomatic learning - why we teach? Dave’s education blog: education, post-structuralism and the rise of the machines.        

Salomon, G., Ed. (1993). Distributed cognitions - pyschological and educational considerations. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.




Designing for connectivity and networked learning

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012


Another blog post about the ‘Rethinking pedagogy’ writing workshop. In this post I consider what the future of learning would look like if the affordances of networked technologies were fully embraced. The post centres on the question: What would a scenario of the future look like where the potential benefits and affordances of connectivity were fully exploited for learning? Essentially we would be in a position of an evolving ecology of learners co-constructing and applying their understanding to address complex and tricky real-life challenges.

At a meta-level the collective understanding of the network would be greater than the sum of the individual parts. Residues of learning would reside in the network, leaving a digital learning trail of evolved understanding. A truly rhizomatic learning network,(Cormier 2011) horizontal, evolving, networked and intelligent; constantly adapting to its environment and capitalising on the expertise of both Actants and Non-Actants in the network;(Latour 2005) i.e. learning would distributed being humans and tools, forming a meta distributed cognition.(Salomon 1993) By its nature it would be adaptive, able to respond to changing contexts.  

Learners could tap into the network as and when they needed. Formal educational roles (such as teacher and student) would no longer have resonance. Each individual would adopt different roles in different scenarios, asking for help as a learner in one context, providing expertise as a teacher in another. Participation would be as important as acquisition.(Sfard 1998Participants in the network would also co-designers, helping to evolve and shape the network.


Cormier, D. (2011). Rhizomatic learning - why we teach? Dave’s education blog: education, post-structuralism and the rise of the machines.

Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social: An introduction to actor-network-theory, Oxford University Press, USA.

Salomon, G., Ed. (1993). Distributed cognitions - pyschological and educational considerations. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.           

Sfard, A. (1998). “On two metaphors for learning and the dangers of choosing just one.” Educational researcher 27(2): 4.




Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

As part of our collaborative writing day yesterday, Chris Pegler and I worked on the concept of openness and it’s implications for designing for learning. In particular we considered the question: What would be the implications of adopting open practices on all aspects of education? We did our notes as a table and felt that there are many implications of adopting open practices in education. We considered openness in terms of the following aspects of creating and supporting learning interventions:

  •       Resources
  •       Activities
  •       Learning pathways
  •       Support
  •       Accreditation

For each we considered examples of open practices, along with identification of issues or key messages from these. In each case there is evidence of a spectrum of open practices. For example in terms of resources there are a range from closed, course-based resources to completely open Open Educational Resources (OER).





OER (courseware to component) (Pegler)
Khan Academy

Open practice (OPAL)
Showcase/Shop window and marketing for conventional courses (tasters). Sharing work in progress for comment – LORO, HUMBOX etc.


MOOCs, pedagogical patterns (McAndrew and Goodyear)

Walled garden and open boundaries within conventional course activities. Scale of MOOCs – retention issue. Variety of routes through and forms of learning input (how much learner influence on design is there). Siemens/Downes – choice of tech is open (PLE and portability). Rhizomatic learning (Cormier), organic and contextualised. Chance and choice. Can also be highly structured (Stanford AI).

Learning Pathways

Scaffolded (conventional) to flexible (e.g. SocialLearn)
Learning analytics

Bussu (language learning site) – learning pathway based on assessment of needs.
Learners can drown in the choice. Pedagogy of abundance.  Recommender systems – learner and buying  (Amazon, If you liked this)


Social networks

Facebook examples from AI Stanford providing local (cultural) support – satellite support for core programme. Twitter.
Supporting entry to education (e.g. Bridge to Success). Cloudworks. Blog comments. Serendipitous to structured.


OERu, P2P, badges

Will the standard forms of accreditation still be relevant in the future?  Shift from knowledge to skills and competencies to meet changing needs. Demonstration?  See badges (Wiley course). Formal, non-formal, informal variants.



Rethinking pedagogy

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Today I attended a writing workshop in Oxford as part of our production of the second edition of ‘Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age’ (Beetham and Sharpe 2007).  Whereas my chapter in the first edition focused on the DialogPlus learning design tool mainly, in the second edition my chapter will be a review of learning design visualisation tools and pedagogical planners. The plan in today’s session was to collaboratively write the final chapter for the book. Rhona Sharpe and Helen Beetham led the session, also present were Chris Jones and Chris Pegler from the OU, Liz Masterman from Oxford University and Sara De Freitas from Coventry University. We began the day by brainstorming what we thought were the key themes and future challenges for learning and in particular designing for learning. We then worked in pairs, each pair taking one of the emergent themes:

  • Learner design contexts
  • Openness
  • Designing at different levels of progression.


Chris Pegler and I worked on the openness theme. We then spent about 40 minutes working on this. It was an interesting process. Chris typed and I talked and it was interesting to see how our ideas co-developed. We then regrouped and discussed the drafts. It was amazing to see how much everyone had written!

After lunch we worked on a number of trends and challenges facing the future of learning, I focused on the nature and implications of connectivity. Finally, we each envisioned a future scenario, considering what would be the nature and implications of our chosen theme - should it be fully realised. I will blog about each of the three writings in future blogs. It was a creative and productive process; just having to knuckle down and write in a timed session (almost like an exam) was a useful way of getting ideas down on paper. The mixture of individual, pair and group work was very effective. A version of the chapter is also publically available and the wider community has been invited to contribute. These additions will be combined with the drafts we have produced and Rhona and Helen will then have the hard task of trying to develop a coherent narrative. I think this is a lovely example of working openly and I am sure that the final product will be all the better as a result.


Beetham, H. and R. Sharpe (2007). Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital age: Designing and Delivering E-Learning, London: Routledge



Laurrilard’s Conversational Framework

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

John Mac reminded me of Laurillard’s conversational framework (Laurillard 2002). There is a nice interactive map of it available here. There is also a nice video describing the framework and how it works in practice. The framework essentially articulates the dialogic exchange between a teacher and a learner and how each one internalized the conversation before acting on it in the context of their role in the learning process; i.e. the learner in terms of their learning and the teacher in terms of understanding what the learner is doing.  It focuses on Laurillard’s five media types:

  • Narrative – print, web resources, TV, video, etc.
  • Interactive – hypermedia and web resources
  • Communicative – audio and video conferencing, student collaboration, etc.
  • Adaptive – simulations and interactive tutorials
  • Productive – microworlds, etc.


Laurillard, D. (2002). Rethinking university teaching, London: Routledge 




Follow the sun conference

Saturday, March 24th, 2012


Next week we are running our annual Follow the Sun conference entitled ‘Futures for Knowledge’. This is a 48-hour online conference starting with a series of presentations in Australia, then moving to the UK and finishing in Canada. We have a really exciting line up of presentations by key international experts. The focus is on the challenges facing different disciples, as well as ways in which technologies might address these. Keynote speakers include Wendy Hall,  Alistair Blair, Mike Petterson and John Fothergill from the UK. There are four speakers from Australia and four from Canada. A full list of the presenters can be found here. The programme is available here. You can also submit an e-poster. The conference is free so please consider registering; we already have nearly 600 people signed up!