Archive for April, 2012

The 7Cs of learning design

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

This is an update of my previous post on our 7Cs of learning design framework. We have now trialled aspects of this with three different groups: teachers in South Africa via a two-week online workshop - through a range of synchronous and asynchronous activities, in a face-to-face workshop with colleagues in Leicester on our new Masters programme and yesterday with teachers in Aalborg University.

Conole learning design_final

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Digital literacies

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

The blog post is a work up of a talk I gave in the School of Education at Plymouth University on the 18th April 2012. 

Conole plymouth

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Jenkins (2009) lists eleven digital literacies which he argues are needed to be part of what he terms today’s participatory culture. They are: play, collective intelligence, judgment, transmedia navigation, networking, negotiation, distributed intelligence, multitasking, appropriation, simulation and performance. I would add a twelfth, creativity. This list demonstrates the complex way in which we interact in digital networks and represents the set of skills we need to be able to harness and appropriate the affordances (Gibson 1979; Conole and Dyke 2004) of social and participatory media. Together these digital literacies enable us to find and manage information and to communicate and collaborate with others. These media offer rich multimedia representations and there are a plethora of ways in which we can interact and connect with others.

The statistics associated with social media are truly profound as this short YouTube video demonstrates.[1] The figures are truly staggering; for example if facebook was a country it would be the third largest in the world. Clearly social and participatory media have significant potential to foster new approaches to learning, teaching and research, however to be used effectively we, as learners, teachers and researchers, need to develop a complex new set of digital literacy skills.

Technologies have transformed everything we do; from the way we find information to the ways in which we connect with others. Arguably anything we want to know or learn is available somewhere on the net. As John Naughton argues, disruption is a feature of the net, not a bug (Naughton 2012).  New technologies have a unique set of characteristics: networked, distributed, peer reviewed and open, they are complex, dynamic and evolving – we co-evolve with the technologies, appropriating them into our everyday practice. Your network and who you connect with defines you.  A number of useful reports give summaries of these new technologies and their implications for education, for example the NSF-commissioned report on Cyberlearning (Borgeman, Abelson et al. 2008), a review of Web 2.0 tools in HE (Conole and Alevizou 2010) and more recently the IPTS report on digital competences (Ala-Mutka 2012). Digital competence is defined as:

The confident, critical and creative use of ICT to achieve goals related to work, employability, learning, leisure, inclusion and/or participation in society (Ala-Mutka, 2012:1).

The IPTS report describes how new technologies are being used for work, leisure and communication, arguing that the network is the key.  It also recognizes that new technologies are more participatory, promoting more open practices. However it also states that the digital divide (Norris 2001; Warschauer 2004) is still present – arguably narrower, but deeper. What are the implications of not being part of the net, when increasingly more and more information is only available online? The report outlines a digital competency framework, consisting of three aspects: information skills and knowledge, advanced skills and knowledge and attitudes. These can be broken down into the following components:

  • Operational skills and knowledge – referring to the technical aspects of digital tools, such as using a mouse or manipulating particular tools.
  • Medium-related skills and knowledge – referring to understanding how to purposefully and safely use specific media. 
  • Communication and collaboration – referring to the ability to effectively express and communicate, as well as understanding the potential and limitations of different media.
  • Information management – referring to navigating the wealth of information available online and making informed judgments about which resources are appropriate in different contexts.
  • Learning and problem solving – referring to acquisition of the skills needed to harness digital tools for learning, working and problem solving.
  • Meaningful participation – referring to the ability to find and participate in digital activities, either individually or in collaboration with others.
  • Intercultural and collaborative attitude – referring to the ability to be culturally sensitive and able to participate with others from different cultures in an appropriate manner.
  • Critical attitude – referring to the ability to critically reflect on the quality and provenance of things they find on the net.
  • Creative attitude – referring to the ability to adopt creative practices in harnessing technologies for learning, work and leisure activities, encouraging open and participatory approaches.
  • Responsible attitude – referring to the need to be aware of the visibility and potential consequences of one’s own digital activities.
  • Autonomous attitude – referring to the fact that the internet is not structured and has no rules or monitoring. Each individual needs to be clear of their own objectives and find and choose appropriate tools and resources to meet these objectives.

The report also lists the benefits in terms of: social, health, economic, civic, cultural and societal. Although it also points out that there are a number of implications/risks, in terms of: personal safety and privacy, the need to act responsibly, ethically and legally, understanding the nature of digital media and issues associated with inequalities.

It is interesting to reflect on how each of us are using these technologies and which are core to our daily practice. Beyond email and general use of the web, there as a number of core tools I now use on a regular basis. I have been blogging now since 2007.[2] Blogging has become an important part of my professional practice. I blog about ideas in development, reports on conferences and project meetings, pointers to interesting research and articles and draft publications. Blogging now sits as a step towards completed publications such as articles or books, and is a good way of working up ideas and getting comments from the wider research community. I use Endnote to manage references and have now built up a comprehensive library of references. Diigo  and ScoopIt are useful as a means of keeping track of interesting links on the web. In terms of social networking I am an active user of Twitter with more than 4,000 followers. I also use facebook extensively, the later for more social interactions and the former for more professional activities. Clearly such tools have enormous potential, but not everyone is comfortable with blogging or participating in social networks. Indeed many have very strong views against these technologies, arguing that they are trivial and raise a host of ethical and privacy issues.

A body of research has emerged in recent years around the competences and skills needed to effectively use and interact with new technologies. Terms such as digital literacies, information literacies, 21st Century literacies have been used; each with subtle nuances and different foci (Jenkins, 2009; Goodfellow and Lea, 2007l Lankshear and Knobel, 2006). Literacies can be seen as a continuum from instrumental skills to productive competence and efficiency. Lankshear and Knobel (2006) adopt a ocio-cultural view of digital literacy and argue that they are the set of social practices and meaning making associated with interacting with digital tools. Fundamentally the central issue is about the literacies needed to communicate with others and make sense of information (and more specifically how to do this in a digital context).

Returning now to Jenkins list of digital literacies, I will now expand on some of the terms and demonstrate how they are realised through use of digital technologies. The web is complex and vast, transmedia navigation is a key skill needed to be able to navigate this terrain. Arguably any information we want is available on the web, but finding appropriate resources and tools and evaluating their relevance is non-trivial. A good example of this is how learners are interacting in a new form of open and free courses, termed MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). Developed by Siemens and Downes  MOOCs have now been running for four years or so. Anyone can participate in these courses, which are organized into chunks of materials and resources around particular topics over a number of months. Thousands sign up to participate in these courses, although the number that complete them and get any form of accreditation is much larger. Evaluation of users’ perceptions of these MOOCs indicates that many get lost easily and find participation far from satisfying. The sheer size and complexity of MOOCs is overwhelming; with each learner having to define their own personal learning environment and learning pathway through the course.

Distributed cognition was defined by Saloman in the nineties (Salomon 1993). In essence this refers to the fact that our cognition is distributed between ours brains and our digital environment. We increasingly use a range of information management tools to collate and aggregate relevant resources, we harness our social networks in terms of getting answers to queries and participating in ongoing discourses and shared co-construction of knowledge. We are no longer isolated individuals, but part of a global distributed network of others and tools.

Anyone who has seen children interacting with technologies, will agree that play is an essential digital literacies. Children don’t reach for a manual when starting to use a new tool, they simply start to interact and explore, learning through playing. This active, learner-centred approach is a key facet of new technologies and increasingly the interfaces of new tools are intuitive and self-explanatory. Play can be mapped to particular pedagogical approaches such as role-play and problem solving. A nice example comes from the SWIFT project,[3] which has developed a virtual Genetics laboratory in SecondLife. To orientate new users to the environment there is a maze that the users walk through, there are various activities they complete along the way and by the end of the maze they are equipped with the basic skills needed to interact in the environment. They can then enter and interact with the Genetics laboratory, playing with instruments, taking measurements and learning basic laboratory techniques.

Networking is also a key characteristic of new technologies; the nature of your network and how you use it defines who you are in digital space. A network is only meaningful if you are connected to those with shared interests. Furthermore, it is important to give as well as take, active participation is expected. Within each social network we interact with others in a variety of ways. With both facebook and Twitter, I have a number of ‘onion layers’ of those I interact with; there is an inner core of friends and followers who I interact with on a regular basis and then a set of layers of users I interact with less and less, and finally those that follow me, but that I don’t follow.

Collective intelligence refers to the ability to be able to work with others to solve a problem or aggregate a set of resources. A good example of harnessing the distributed collective intelligence of the network is the work being done as part of the iSpot project,[4] on promoting scientific awareness. It is an online site where users can share and discuss sightings of fauna and flora around the UK.


The site is an excellent example of collective intelligence (Lévy 1997) and harnessing the power of the masses, as it enables the capture of sightings of flora and fauna from around the country on changes in patterns of nature that can then feed into ongoing research activities. Once registered, a user can add an observation to the Website, suggest an identification, or see if anyone else can identify the species. Users can also contribute to existing observations and there is a forum to stimulate debate. Despite the overall look and feel of the site being focussed on ‘fun’, it feeds directly into real research activities and also enables users to transfer their informal learning/interests into more formal educational offerings if they wish. Evaluation of the use of the site indicates that it is increasing general interest in science and is also resulting in users then signing up for more formal courses (Clow and Makriyannis 2011). The data collected on the site is being used by scientists and is providing them with a rich understanding of the changing ecology across the UK. Galaxy Zoo[5] is a similar initiative. The general public are invited to help astronomy researchers to categorise and chart the galaxy, using thousands of images derived from the Hubble Space Telescope Archive.


Performance is about how you present yourself on the web and the ways in which you interact with others. We each need to find our own digital identity and voice. Some choose to adopt a very professional stance, others are more light hearted. We each need to decide the degree to which we want to adopt open practices; what we share with others and the extent to which we share our experiences and activities. I have a very open approach to the way in which I interact with others online, I share my ideas and thoughts as I go, pass on interesting ideas and references received from other, ask queries of the network, as well as providing useful feedback to others. For researchers social and participatory media offer a rich set of ways in which we can communicate and discuss our research outputs. They extend the reach of the audience; a paper in a closed journal might at best be read by a handful of readers, in contrast a blog post can be virally communicated to thousands in a nano second. There are now a number of new tools emerging that can provide some indication of an individual’s research impact. For example Google Citation Indicator gives the H factor for an individual, along with a ranked listing of their most cited papers. It is evident to me that these kinds of tools will be used increasingly within institutions in terms of promotion and at a national level in terms of things like research assessment exercises. Whether you like it or not, your digital footprint is there and is being monitored.


In addition to Jenkin’s list of digital literacies I would add creativity as an important skill in harnesses the potential of new technologies. Creativity derives from the Latin word, ‘crea’, which means to create or make something. It is about creating something new (either a physical artefact or a concept) that is both novel and valuable. It is about the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, partners, and relationships, and create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods and interpretations. I would argue that it is an essential skill to deal with today’s complex, fast and changing society. Technologies offer a wealth of ways to foster creativity; they provide a range of ways for us to communicate and collaborate with others. There are four aspects to creativity:

·        Process: mechanisms needed for creative thinking

·        Product: measuring creativity in people

·        Person: general intellectual habits (openness, ideas of ideation, autonomy, expertise, exploratory and behavioural)

·        Place: best circumstances to enable creativity to flourish.


There are five stages of creativity:

·        Preparation: identifying the problem

·        Incubation: internalisation of the problem

·        Intimation: getting a feeling for a solution

·        Illumination: creativity burst forth

·        Verification: idea is consciously verified, elaborated and applied


Wall (2009) argues that creativity is the new technology:

I think that the 21st century will be a century of creativity in the same way that the 20th was of technology. Much of the creativity, interestingly enough, will be based on the tools provided by technology, especially tools that allow us to create, collaborate and communicate.  

Along with the eleven digital literacies identified by Jenkins, creativity enables learners to connect and co-constructive meaning in rich authentic environments. iCreaNet ( is a global research network of educational researchers focusing on support for development of creative skills in higher educational contexts. Fundamental to the work of the group is seeing ICT resources and environments as crucial means of providing the flexibility and diversity necessary to facilitate creative development and to bring education up to speed with the way that citizens of the earth learn and enhance themselves in the contexts of their daily lives in the 21st century.


This post has explored the types of digital literacies that are needed by learners, teachers and researchers to exploit the potential of new technologies and to enable them to connect and communicate in a plethora of ways. The digital literacies needed are far more participatory and interactive, the distributed network of others that we connect with is as important as the way in which we access and use information on the Internet. We each need to identify our own digital voice and identity, how we want to be perceived and how we want to interact with others. Used effectively social and participatory media offer a powerful means of us communicating and developing our ideas.


Ala-Mutka, K. (2012). Mapping digital competence: towards a conceptual understanding. IPTS report. Saville.

Borgeman, C., H. Abelson, et al. (2008). Fostering learning in the networked world: the cyberlearning opportunity and challenge, Report of the NSF task force on cyberlearning.

Clow, D. and E. Makriyannis (2011). iSpot analysed: participatoiry learning and reputation. 1st learning analytics and knowledge conference, Banff, Canada.

Conole, G. and P. Alevizou (2010) “Review of the use(s) of Web 2.0 in Higher Education.”

Conole, G. and M. Dyke (2004). “What are the affordances of information and communication technologies?” ALT-J 12(2): 113-124 %U

Gibson, J. J. (1979). The ecological approach to visual perception. Hillsdale, New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum Associated.

Jenkins, H. (2009). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century, Mit Pr.

Lankshear, C. and M. Knobel (2006). “Digital literacies: Policy, pedagogy and research considerations for education.” Nordic Journal of digital literacy 1(1): 226.

Lévy, P. (1997). Collective intelligence: Mankind’s emerging world in cyberspace, Perseus Books Cambridge, MA, USA.

Naughton, J. (2012). From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg, what you really need to know  about the internet.

Norris, P. (2001). Digital divide: Civic engagement, information poverty, and the Internet worldwide, Cambridge Univ Pr.

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

Wall, R. (2009). “Creativity is the new technology.” Zen and the art of being rob

Warschauer, M. (2004). Technology and social inclusion: Rethinking the digital divide, the MIT Press.












Designing for learning

Friday, April 6th, 2012

Here is a link to a slidecast of my presentation at the Networked Learning conference this week. Apologies the syncing didn’t work very well for some reason slideshare was playing up and I couldn’t move the bars for each slide, it kepts going back to default! Might try again later.

Conole nlc

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ALDinHE conference

Friday, April 6th, 2012

I was supposed to be doing a keynote at the ALDinHE conference in Leeds last week, but stupidly managed to double book myself. Luckily they got Helen Beetham as a replacement. By way of apology I have created a slidecast of the talk that I would have given. There is also an article to accompany the talk in the ALDinHE journal. 

Conole al din_he

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Crowdsourcing digital literacies

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

I am doing a seminar at Plymouth University on the 18th April. I thought it might be fun to adopt a crowdsourcing approach to gathering material for the event. I would of course acknowledge all contributions. Don’t know how this will work but thought it might be fun as an experiment. The topic is digital liteacies and creativity. So…. Contributions here please!

It’s hardly easy to be softly hard – freedom and control in learning spaces

Thursday, April 5th, 2012


Terry Anderson and Jon Dron gave an excellent and highly entertaining keynote at the Networked Learning conference this week. They focused on their concept of the four generations of Distance Education pedagogies. They describe this work in more detail in a special issue of IRRODL on connectivism. Here are my notes from the session.


  • The nature of technologies and pedagogies
  • Reviewing generations of DE and pedagogy
  • Aligning them with groups, sets and nets (Dron and Anderson, 2007)
  • Case study using Athabasca’s landing ELGG installation

Here are the slides for Jon and Terry’s session

It’s hardly easy to be softly hard: freedom and control in learning spaces

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Generations of distance learning pedagogies (open/closes, hard/soft)

  • Instructivist – self-paced, individual study, etc.
  • Social constructivist – groups, classes, etc.
  • Connectivist -  networks, MOOCs, etc
  • Holist – sets and collectives


P1. The next generation learning evolves form and with past generations

P2. Different structures/pedagogies/technologies wth different affordance and degrees of hardness affect our use. McClunan

Learning as a Dance (Anderson 2008) Technologies set the beat and the timing, pedagogy defines the moves.


The orchestration of phenomena to some use (Arthur, 2009).

Assemblies of hard and soft components. Technologies exist in relation to get other. Technologies are assemblies.

Pedagogies are among the soft components of all learning technologies.

A pen can be used for an infinite number of pedagogies.

Writing and reading are technologies, as is language.




The adjacent possible

Flexibility and freedom


Orchestration of phenomena by humans

Path dependencies

Freedom from error


Orchestration of phenomena embedded

The different is the degree of human involvement. Soft is hard (its difficult), Hard is easy.  Soft technologies enable us to be creative.

Behavioural/Cognitive Pedagogies – Instructivist

Tell ‘em what your going to tell ‘em. Tell ‘em and tell ‘em what you told them – Direct Instruction movement (ISD).

Enhanced by the cognitive revolution – chunking, cognitive load, working memory, multiple representations, split-attention effect, variability effect, Sorden 2005 – multi-media effect. Greeno, Collins and Resnick, 1996

Behaviorist /Cognitive thinking – knowledge as a thing, context free, can be transmitted, logically coherent, readily defined through closed systems with discernable relationships between input and output

Technologies – videos, lectures, text books, video and audio broadcast, course packages. Knewton – continous adpativity

Social focus of ist generation – individual learner

Instructivist freedoms – subject, delegability (choosing to choose), technology, approach (how – pedagogy process), sociability, pace, time and location. M. Paulsen

Future of 1st generation

OERU, limitless, very low cost content, challenges of accreditation, The (forever?) just around the corner, ‘learner adaptation’ technologies.

The great courses content, interactive MIT courses, value of courses is dropping.

Give aways – Issues in Distance Education series – Seven books available.

Second generation DE – social constructivist pedagogy

Continuum conversation with the external world and tis artefacts with oneself and with other learners and teachers

Groups as the social unit of SC pedagogy

Why groups? Students who learner in small groups demonstrate greater academic achievement Springer Stanne and Donovan 1999 p. 42

Problems with groups: Restriction in time, space , pace and relationship, not open, Confined by the leaders expectation, usually isolated from the authentic world of practice, low tolerance of differences, Bron 2005 Group think, Cousin and Deepwell 2005, Poor preparation for LLL beyond the course, unscalable.

Group model – membership and exclusion, closed, Hierarchies of control, focus on collaboration and shared purpose, teachers – guides.

Freedoms for control of learning are different

Trusts both opens and constrains. Typically a structure process. But: opportunities for negotiation of control, shifting boundaries, diversity valorized, big issue – getting it just right for everyone (assessment?)

Third generation – connectivist pedagogy

Learning is building capacity. Emergent, distributed and diverse, chaotic, fragmented, non-sequential and contexualised. Connected knowledge. Barth 2004. Knowledge is defined by its creation through activities – accessing information, evaluation, filtering, conveying ides. Burt 2005 Brockerage and closure.

Networks celebrate and stimulate cognitive diversity. Arises when have diff types of info and knowledge perspectives, diff ways of viewing the world, diff ways of categorizing a problem, heuristics yielding diff ways of solving problems

Fisher 2009

Technologies – networks, bottom-up, open, inclusive, focus on individual and connections, teachers – role models and co-travelers,

People who live in the intersection of social worlds are at greater risk of having good ideas’ (Burt)

The network is not an analogy of how we think, it is how we think Siemens

Much more connectivist freedoms

MOOCs aren’t courses, they are opportunities for learning, learner has a lot of individual freedom and control

Limitless assembly, limitless choice, limitless dialogue, but too soft.

Connectivism is the pedagogy of infinity

But do learning networks really work? Network ghost towns, build it and they may come or not

Weinberger’s new book ‘Too big to know’ Fear of open spaces, Internet is what you get when everyone is a curator and everything is linked. Very disruptive. Lost is social space!

Choice! = control Its not just about networks

Set model

Cooperation, anonymity, focus on filtering and selection, hashtag is about sets, tags and categorization, teachers: analysers, curators and publishers, analytics, collectives. Pinterest.

Nets (MOOCs, blogs, LinkedIn, social networks), groups (classes, LMS, tutorial groups) and sets (Wikipedia, twitter, pinterest, google search) are different

4th generation of learning pedagogy

Reducing choices to only those choices that learners want or need to make. People need to make meaningful choices.

1st – 4th generation from closed to open, from hard to soft!

Holist freedoms have a high degree of control over the different aspects of learning.

How holist? Plenty, openness (resources, people), soft and malleable systems, feedback loops, stigmery, social navigations, sociability, adaptive hypermedia, collaborative filtering, learning and process analytics, hard when wanted, soft when not, Structure and infrastructure.

The collective – emergent structure, individual behaviour. Etc. The Matthew effect the richer get richer, following the wrong trails, cold start problems, context separation, mob stupidity.

Testing these theories out at Athabasca. The landing platform – ELGG. It’s a walled garden. A private space for AU but has windows. User controlled creative space, Boutique social system. Networking, blogging, photos, microblogging, polls calendars, groups, etc., differentiating and merging world from school, form fun. ! It’s a soft space. It malleable space.

Multiple rationales. Have nets, sets and groups within this landing platform.

Popular activities – blogs, files, wire posts, bookmarks, discussion topics, wiki, photo page. It’s not a product it’s a process. Tara Fenwick – opening up small spaces within what exists. Current user bas 3250 users (out of 42000 people).


Dron, J. and T. Anderson (2007). Collectives, networks and groups in social software for e-Learning. Proceedings of World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education Quebec. Retrieved Feb. 16: 2008.




Tales from the land of digital natives

Thursday, April 5th, 2012


Nice presentation at the Networked Learning conference by Riina Vuorikari and Yves Punie and others. Here are my notes from the session.

  • Digital natives is a problematic term.
  • Learning networks for professional development
  • Learning analytics in a teachers’ social network
  • Teacher collaboration in the context of networked learning – current eTwinning perspectives and future perspectives
  • Supporting teachers’ networked learning skills for more online engagement


  • European Schoolnet – created in 1997 based in Brussels network of 30 EU ministries of education
  • eTwinning – community for schools in Europe, started 2005
  • Portal for teachers in Europe
  • 133088 active members, inspiring teachers and professional development and tools for collaboration and rewards
  • Bruer et al 2009 School collaboration
  • Projects can be of any kind and length
  • Spreading a positive virus called pedagogical innovation
  • Those not connected don’t get the virus and are not collaborating with others
  • ETwinning reach = number of eTwinners/number of teachers
  • ca. 160, 000 schools
  • On average 2.64% of EU teachers are eTwinners
  • Countries have very big differences big community in Estonia whereas very low in Germany
  • Can map to Rogers diffusion of innovation curve still mainly innovators and early adopters
  • Tellnet project – to better understand how social learning networks can support teachers’ competence building
  • Methods: longitudinal studies using authentic eTwinning data, SNA, visualization techniques, scenario forecasting exercises
  • TALIS< OECD, 2009 Teachers’ co-operation teachers working together: a statistical factor analysis. Two types of activity: exchange and coordination and deeper collaboration
  • Can drill down and find out the nature of these two types of activities.
  • Social capital Burt 1992
  • Human capital ability to perform tasks, Social capital social environment surrounding individual
  • Social capital as a property of individuals – position in SN that are ore efficient in performing tasks (ie local structures) and groups – structure of members betwork that makes the group functions more efficient
  • Used SNA metrics and a development model
  • The performance of teachers and projects recognized by quality labels
  • Network structure of projects and position of teachers – identified via networks created by several communication mechanisms (message, project collaboration, blog)
  • Two forms of social capital – structural holes vs. closure
  • Structural holes nodes are positioned at the interface between groups, informational advantages access to information from different parts of the network, from novel ideas by combining information from different groups, control the communication between groups
  • Closure – nodes are embedded in tightly knit groups, more trust and security within coherent communities
  • Coleman 1990 – Social capital – individual and groups deriving benefits from social relationships, network structural property – either structural hole or closure
  • At what stage is the members’ network of a given group?
  • How does it relate to the performance of the group?
  • Can trace stages of development: born, bonding, emergence to interdisciplinary, Hierarchical and focused.  Pham et al. 2011
  • Density: fraction of actual edges in the network
  • Global clustering coefficient
  • Maximum betweenness: highest betweenness of nodes
  • Largest connected component: fraction of nodes in largest connected component
  • IPTS research: Significant change in what, how where and when we learn

Considering sustainability in networked learning – a dialogue with perspectives of action research and sustainability

Thursday, April 5th, 2012


Tara Fenwich and Judi Marshall did a nice keynote at the Networked Learning Conference. I must admit the talk was a little out of my comfort zone, but in a good and challenging way. Judi raised some thought provoking issues about sustainability and challenged us in the networked learning community to take more account of the challenges facing the planet in terms of climate change. Tara drew on sociomaterial research, which I think has huge potential and application in our field. Lots to ponder over in the coming months. I think it was brave of the conference organisers to include keynotes from outside the field, we need more of this kind of thing.

Doctoral studies workshop

Thursday, April 5th, 2012



Before the beginning of the Networked Learning conference, I attended a Doctoral studies workshop. It consisted of two parts: a series of short presentations by the students on their research interests and where they were with their work, followed by one-to-one mentoring sessions. I really enjoyed the workshop and it was very interesting to hear the rich and varied range of topics being explored. I found the one-to-one sessions very stimulating and hope that the students found it useful too. Here are some notes on the presentations that I listened to.

Brenda Kaulebeck – Concept of connections in online learning environment

  • Concept of networked individualism.
  • Move from individual, independent autonomous learning to social and networked learning.
  • Tensions between community and individual learning.
  • Focus on scholarship. Digital scholarship (Weller, 2012)
  • Focus on what the designers are thinking about and relationship to connectivism, community etc.
  • Knowles, fielding.
  • Short term dialogues over a few days and then longer engagement in e-communities.
  • Participated in a MOOC last semester, didn’t see it as social, much more as individual. Read Barry Wellman – about developing a Personal Network, rather than being part of a community.
  • Concept: Self-directed (Knowles, Tough and Shapiro), collaborative (Wenger) and personal network. Similar to Dron and Anderson’s work on groups, networks and collectives.
  • Granovetter 1973 strong and weak ties.  Chris Jone’s Networked learning – a relational approach (2008). What does the tie itself mean in reality

Marquerite Koole – a social constructionist approach to phenomenographic analysis of identity positioning in networked learning

  • Identify positioning thresholds – comes from Meyer and Lands work, notion of threshold crossings, preliminal and liminal experiences, subliminal and post-liminal.  What makes you stop and think about who you are, this is relational in terms of how we are in relation to others.
  • Vygotsky cycle, Gothman, etc. Some of the old literature revisited.
  • People introduce themselves initially by location and institutions and what they know (that becomes who they are).
  • Research questions what kind of troublesome experiences leads doctoral students to trigger changes in their identity and various. Looking for variation of experiences. Categories of experiences. Using discourse analysis and semi-structured interviews.
  • Threshold crossings: stages of liminality.
  • Potter 1996 Gee 2012 were used as the basis of coding.

Jane Costello

  • What are the different ways of experiencing online learning community sustainment in HE?
  • What are the participants’ perceptions of guest lecturers’ impact on – sustainment of online learning communities, group activity, enhancements of learning experience, social presence, active engagement, reflectivity in learning
  • How are these perceptions experienced?
  • What are guest lectures’ roles in learner engagement in online learning communities in HE?
  • Asking questions of students, instructor and guest.
  • Analysis Akerlind (2008) four stages: contrast, generalization, separation and fusion.
  • Got about 18/19 students, 5 guests and 2 instructors. Another case this spring which will be fully online. Doing three cases.

Michelle Harrison – Evaluating learning activities

  • ID team (6-8) developing distance delivery moving to an online paced-cohort model. Have been able to add a lot more collaborative activities.
  • Develop some guiding principles to improve practice and promote and share/dialogue about our designs.
  • Pilot a learner feedback questionnaire tool and reflect on how this data can be used refined and then incorporated into an evaluative process.
  • Action research approach – participants ID, students and faculty.
  • Research framework – design (perceptions of design), analysis (looking at our learning designs) and evaluation (getting feedback).
  • Design – practices and process; Analysis – current activities, Evaluation – activities.
  • Data collection: ID/faculty - workshops, wikis, survey and faculty input to student survey, Students – pilot survey, 189 delivered, 14 courses, 52 responses, Likert and open-ended questions.
  • Asked students questions about their experiences of independent activities and interactive activities. Didn’t think interactive activities were a good use of their time, although they did like it.
  • Model for change: process, outcomes and practice = praxis
  • Practice-oriented inquiry - Yanchar and Gabbitas, 2010
  • Building activity templates, embed learner surveys into courses, focus on sharing within the course development teams.
  • What level is the design at?  It’s at course level.
  • What is the relationship between how the course is designed and the teacher teaching? A course can be well designed but badly delivered.
  • As designers we need to be more explicit in terms of what we want them to do with our designs!

Jeffery Keefer – Navigating liminality  - experience of being a doctoral student

  • Turners’ work on liminality.
  • Experiences of doctoral students who study at a distance. Specifically those who have problems along the way, liminal periods.
  • Students undergoing change periods. Kiley 2009 Learning journey as multi-dimensional, involving ontological, epistemological, emotional and professional development along with cognitive shifts in understanding. Wisker et al. 2010 Learning journey/rite of passage
  • Purpose to look at experience of doctoral students.
  • Using narrative inquiry – want to understand the story that people are sharing. Constructing identity through storytelling Clandinin and Connelly 2000 Riessman 2008. Storytelling through conversation and dialogue.
  • Found participants through social media.
  • ANT lens
  • Fenwick 2010, Fenwick and Edwards 2010 Fox 2005 Oliver 2011.
  • Preliminary findings
  • Feelings of isolation led to challenges articulating and processing liminal experiences.
  • Liminal experiences were so strong they were relived during an interview.
  • Distance is contested and problematised.

Maria Cutajar – Networked learning experience of students in transition to HE – what how and why?

  • Professional practice and thesis project relationship
  • Cohort of ca 70 students (2011-2013), 8 week networked learning course – Basic Computing Principles targeting first year students.
  • Aims: investigating their experience of networked learning
  • Advance NL as a learning approach into the pre-university educational sector.
  • What different NL experiences do they have and make?
  • How do they perceive others as contributors of their learning in NL?
  • Experiences: disconnected, strategic experience, and connected experience.

Moira Hunter – Researchscapes in virtual worlds: unpacking researchers’ conceptualization of spatial semiotics

  • Focus on Virtual Worlds and what are they and 3D technologies – Like Secondlife and OpenSim. Not interested in what has been done in the past on identity, design, learning spaces. Interested in the researchers’ path and progress within their own research. From first perception and understanding of this space and how that changes as they work through their research process.
  • Talking about a space that is highly visual. Researcher comes to it with their own understanding and interpretation of the space.
  • Perspectives of research process. See a building in different ways depending on how we come to it. Meaning making of spaces.
  • Terms are not clear – Virtual Worlds, spaces, etc. Do not consider a moodle space as a VW.  Some look at the VW as a container. Whereas actually might it be more appropriate to adopt a more open perspective as others factors will impact on what happens within the space, your socio-cultural background will have an influence.
  • Expansive learning theory, spatial semiotics and phenomenography.
  • What criteria are considered in selecting the space of inquiry by the researchers?
  • How are these selected boundaries transformed if at all in the process of the studies?
  • How, if at all, has the shifting of boundaries enhance the research outcomes?