Archive for March, 2013

iTunes launch!

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013


Finally, diagnosis finally…. It has taken a long time but we are now live on iTunesU, online all thanks to Terese Bird – the phrase dog with a bone comes to mind ;-)

Terese did some research to find out what other institutions’ experiences were of going on iTunesU. The OU, not surprisingly, adopted a very centrally controlled approach, with strict quality assurance processes. They found that the benefits of going on iTunesU were twofold. Firstly, it got them recognition in North America. Secondly, it resulted in learners signing up to do OU courses, having sampled the tasters on iTunesU. Nottingham and Oxford adopted more of a peer-reviewed approach. The powers that be at Leicester required some persuading…. They wanted assurances that the quality of the materials would be good and that the materials would need to be Leicester branded. We having been working with academics and marketing for some time to review potential content. The launch is timely given the recent discovery of Richard III and there are some nice videos on the site on this. So have a look, feedback welcome!

2013 so far…

Monday, March 18th, 2013

I have just collated a list of my recent activities for my line manager and thought it might be interesting to share. It’s a real eclectic mix of activities - on the research side: from writing, to bids, to presentations, in terms of teaching working on our new MSc and doing PhD supervisions!


  • Final proofs for a chapter on learning design tools in Sharpe and Beetham’s second edition of ‘Rethinking pedagogy;
  • Addressed reviewers’ comments on a chapter on learning design in a forthcoming NTF book
  •  Confirmation that a workshop submitted to the EDEN conference in Oslo in June (with Mike Keppell) on learning design and learning spaces accepted
  •  Online METIS project meeting
  •  Final proofs for a chapter on ‘Social exclusion or inclusion—the implications of social and participatory media on education’ as a follow up to a keynote given in Australia February 2011
  •  Final proofs for a chapter with Sandra Will (Wollongong University, Australia) on Cloudworks for the journal Educational Multimedia International as a follow up to a paper given at the ICEM conference in Cyprus in September 2012
  •  Contributed to a joint paper with folk from the OU on our EU-funded XDelia project. Target is to submit to Computers and Education
  •  4-5th March attended an invite only EU meeting in Brussels ‘Grand coalition for digital jobs’
  •   Chaired a TEL SIG on MOOCs
  •  Interviewed for the EU-funded HOTEL project on emergent technologies for learning
  •  Webinar on OER as part of Open Education week
  • FP7 bid on social badges
  • FP7 bid TemLA on Learning Analytics
  • February

    •  Slides for the VC on innovations in learning and teaching at Leicester
    •   Online METIS meeting
    •    7 bids submitted to the lifelong learning EU call
    •    2-day PhD research workshop
    •    Online POERUP meeting
    •   Film for Denise Sweeny on ‘Getting published’ and ‘Open access’
    •   PhD viva Lancaster
    •   OER Webinar for Alistair Creelman in Sweden
    •   PhD viva Manchester


    • Article for the VC’s column in the Mercury on learning design
    • Conole, G. (2013), Harnessing new media, pedagogical innovation and new approaches to design, 25th January 2013, E-Learning Symposium, University of Southampton.
    • Conole, G. (2013), What is innovative teaching?, 23rd January 2013, Royal Holloway
    • Conole, G. (2013), New ecologies and trajectories of learning, 15th January 2013, E-learning: teaching reconsidered conference, Athens.
    • 4 bids submitted to the EU Erasmus call
    • EU-funded METIS learning design meeting in Valladolid, Spain
    • PhD viva Porto, Portugal
    • E-learning papers journal online meeting (on editorial board)
    • EDEN exec meeting (on the board) in Brussels
    • Launch of INNOQUAL new journal (one of three editors in chief)
    • EFQUEL editorial board online
    • Online METIS meeting



    • PhD supervision sessions Bernard, Dina, Natalia, Marion
    • Design and delivery of Week 3 and 8 of the OULDS MOOC on learning design (over 1,700 people registered)
    • Discussions re 8 potential workshop to be delivered in Singapore (learning design, OER, social media, mobile learning, virtual worlds, augmented reality, gamification and e-pedagogies)
    • Discussions  about some workshops we might run for a client
    • Discussions about some learning design workshops and support to convert materials to an online format
    • 22 blog posts (January – March)
    •  Addressing panel’s comments on the MSc documentation
    • Working with Terese Bird on launch of presence on iTunesU

    Who are today’s Vygotskys?

    Sunday, March 17th, 2013


    As a follow up to my post on creativity I’ve had a couple of other thoughts.

    Firstly, cialis that the research assessment exercise in the UK is killing creativity. It is driven by outdated notions of what constitutes ‘good’ research. It is dominated by an over emphasis on high impact journals and takes little or no account of alternative forms of publishing, patient such as blogs. As part of the last RAE I agreed to read all the papers submitted by the CREET research group at the OU, physician to assess whether each paperwas a 0, 1, 2, 3 or 4. It was an incredibly difficult exercise for a number of reasons. How can you compare a ‘solid’ empirically based paper with one, which is about developing new ideas and concepts? If I didn’t like the research topic (and I am not going to say which ones I don’t like) then I was biased against the paper. Similarly, if I knew the area really well I might be more prone to favour it, or, ironically, not favour it if the views were different from my own.

    Secondly, a game I often play with Mark Brown (from Massey University) is “Who do we rate (and not rate) in our field’? Tee hee. What is interesting is that although I admire the work of a lot of people there are very, very few people that are up there with the likes of Vygotsky, whose work was truly inspirational. What constitutes greatness is someone who fundamentally changes things, contributes something genuinely new. Not many of us can say that I fear.

    The creative academic

    Saturday, March 16th, 2013


    Creativity is a key facet of being an academic. Research is about investigating a problem or a real-life phenomenon; interpreting the data to make new meaning. Sometimes it involves relating this to a theoretical framework, like Activity Theory, other times it is simply about making sense of what the data is telling you. Jenkin’s (2009) lists 11 digital literacy skills that he argues are needed to be part of today’s participatory culture; I would add creativity to this list.

    But what is creativity? It is derived from the Latin ‘creo’, meaning to create/make. It is about creating something new (physical artefact or concept) that is novel and valuable. It is the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, partners, relationships and create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations. For me it is an essential skill to deal with today’s complex, fast and changing society. Furthermore, discourse and collaboration are mediated through a range of social and participatory media.

    There are four main aspects of 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

    And five main stages:

    •  Preparation: identifying the problem
    • Incubation: internalisation of the problem
    • Intimation: getting a feeling for a solution       
    • Illumination: creativity bursts forth
    • Verification: idea is consciously verified, elaborated and applied

    The illumination stage is key for me. I often find when I am trying to interpret data or trying to develop a new framework that I need to leave the idea mulling around in my head for a while and then a breakthrough suddenly occurs, often in the middle of the night. I don’t know the Physiological basis for this, I guess it is just that you have to let the idea fallow for a while and sub-consciously your brain slowly starts to piece things together. Alan Cann has provided a nice link to an article on the creative brain.

    Verification is also really important, new ideas or concepts only have validity if others buy into them and can see their value. Take Communities of Practice (Wenger 1998), for example, the concept took off like wildfire in the education community, precisely because it represented a good way of describing communities, and, in particular, online communities.

    Technologies can promote creativity in new and innovative ways. For example, by enabling new forms of discourse, collaboration and co-operation, and providing ways in which individuals can access and repurpose knowledge in different forms of representation. Social media provide a rich plethora of ways in which individuals can communicate and collaborate, and the sheer scale of our social networks allows for unprecedented aggregation and scale – knowledge is both distributed and collective.

    I recently experienced this when I was co-writing the conclusion chapter for the second edition of Helen Beetham and Rhona Shapre’s ‘Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age’ book (Beetham and Sharpe 2007). Helen and Rhona brought a small group of us together for a face-to-face workshop. They had already put a draft of the chapter online and had invited the community to add their thoughts. In the workshop we brainstormed ideas for the chapter and then worked in pairs for 40 minutes solid to work up a number of themes. I worked with Chris Pegler on the notion of openness. It was amazing what we produced and felt like a really creative process. I think collectively we wrote about 8000 words! Helen and Rhona then took this text and the online version and created a coherent narrative.

    Although a little far fetched, I think there is an analogy with the theme of the film, limitless. The central character is a writer with writer’s block. He takes this pill which means he is able to unlock everything he has ever thought or encountered. So if he has watched a Spanish film he is fluent in Spanish; picking up new skills is a breeze. In many ways I think the vast wealth of knowledge we have access to via the Internet and the distributed connected community of peers we are part of, means that we truly now have what Salomon called ‘distributed cognition’ (Salomon 1993). We are our networks. We are what Perkin’s describes as ‘person plus’. 


    Beetham, H. and R. Sharpe (2007). Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital age: Designing and Delivering E-Learning, Routledge %@ 0415408741 %7 New edition.           

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

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

    Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of Practice. Learning, Meaning and Identity. Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive, and Computational Perspectives, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.




    Flow and academic writing

    Wednesday, March 13th, 2013


    Some days you are on a roll, others you can’t concentrate. Today I have definitely been ‘in the flow’. So far I have added comments to a paper on our X-Delia project, corrected proofs for a paper and a chapter, addressed reviewers’ comment on a chapter in a forthcoming National Teaching Fellowship book and blogged about the forthcoming ECEL conference. Csíkszentmihályi defined the concept. In essence it can be defined as follows: 

    Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.

    It can occur across a range of activities: swimming, playing video games, walking, etc. I think it is particular relevant to describing the way in which academics work and more particularly how we write. My writing style is pretty much a stream of consciousness; I am lucky enough to be able to write a lot quickly. The downside of this is that the writing usually then needs a lot of editing. For example, I found with my last book, Designing for Learning in an Open World, that it took me 3 or 4 times as long to edit the book, as it did to write it!

    I don’t know how others go about writing, but this pretty much sums up my approach:


    • I will mull ideas around in my head (for example I have been thinking on and off about writing this blog post for a while). I might do this whilst driving to work, cooking or when I am wandering around the house.
    • Sometimes ideas come to me in the middle of the night, I try and get up and write down the main points, so that I don’t forget them in the morning
    • Then there is the process of the first draft. I find it essential to be alone when doing this, somewhere quiet. My favourite place to write is in the kitchen, which is nice and sunny.
    • I don’t write a structure for the piece, I just let the ideas emerge. This is the stage where flow really comes in, total concentration and immersion in what I am doing, to the extent that I don’t even have a sense of the time involved.
    • Once I have something down it is then a process of re-gigging, moving things around, supporting arguments with references (I find Endnote invaluable for doing this).
    • I am very much a visual person, so I like to support my ideas with illustrations where possible. Often my writing emerges from initial ideas developed for keynotes or talks I have given.
    • Once I have a reasonable draft I tend to put the article aside for a little, so that I can then come back to it afresh.
    • I find I need to print out and read the near final version, to iron out any last minute problems or mistakes. 

    There are six main components of flow:


    • Intense and focused concentration on the present moment – i.e. for me being totally focused on what I am writing.
    • Merging of action and awareness – putting my ideas down on ‘paper’ thinking of both the text I am writing at that moment and the overall focus of the piece.
    • A loss of reflective self-consciousness – being totally unaware of my surroundings.
    • A sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity – I love seeing the ideas develop and crystalise into something meaningful. After a particular fruitful brainstormings session with my team around the concept of our 7Cs of Learning Design framework, I found I had to write a summary of what we had discussed to enable me to capture the key points and I posted this as a blog postA visual representation of the framework was a key aspect of this.
    • A distortion of temporal experience, one’s subjective experience of time is altered – time definitely takes on a new meaning when you are ‘in the flow’ hours can feel like minutes.
    • Experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding, also referred to as autotelic experience – translating ideas into writings is one of the highlights of being an academic for me. I was amazed to see my recent book come out in print. To see my ideas in black and white, to flick through the colour illustrations.

    So those are my thoughts on how I see flow and its role in my writings as an academic. I would be interested to hear other peoples’ ideas, whether they have similar experiences or whether they write in a different way.



    ECEL conference

    Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

    The second call for papers for the ECEL 2013 conference to be held on  30-31 October in Sophia Antipolis, cialis France is now out. In addition to the main conference topics, click the advisory group invite submissions to the following mini tracks:

    • Life Long Learning
    • Institutional change and e-learning innovation
    • Tools for eLearning design and evaluation
    • E-learning and knowledge production: a futurist perspective
    • Social Media Integration to Improve Educational Outcomes for Diverse Learners
    • Video conferencing in teaching and learning

    An avalanche is coming

    Tuesday, March 12th, 2013


    Simon Walker from Greenwich University mentioned this interesting report in the OLDS Google Hangout today. Entitled ‘An avalanche is coming’ the report critiques the current and future impact of more open practices and in particular MOOCs on traditional educational offerings. These are a few of the highlights from the exec summary.

    Just as we’ve seen the forces of technology and globalisation transform sectors such as media and communications or banking and finance over the last two decades, stuff these forces may now transform higher education.

    The fundamental question in An Avalanche is Coming is whether a university education is a good preparation for working life and citizenship in the 21st century or, find more precisely, whether it will continue to be seen as good value, given the remorseless rise in the cost of a university education over recent decades.

    Certainly there are challenges ahead, but surely also opportunities for those bold enough to seize them. The potential unbundling is a certainly a threat, but those who rebundle well will find they have reinvented higher education for the 21st century.

    This is an important and timely report, tackling one of the key challenges facing education today. I think that the future landscape of education is going to look fundamentally different, as alternative business model challenge traditional approaches.   

    The Open Education course

    Tuesday, March 12th, 2013


    So I have just signed up for Martin Weller’s Open Education course. The main reason I wanted to join was to experience being part of this kind of ‘open course’ from a learner’s perspective. I have been involved in a number of MOOCs, ed but on the delivery side of things. Also ‘openness’ is a topic that I am really interested in and I am involved in a number of research projects to do with Open Educational Resources, Learning Design etc. I am also interested in how more open practices are changing the nature of research and the concept of the digital scholar, which I am sure Martin will cover at some point in the course. It will be interesting to see the extent to which there is participation between those enrolled on the course and the level of interaction.  Whether or not I can really invest 16 hours a week to this is perhaps a tad delusional, but we will see.

    ELearning papers special issue on mobile learning

    Friday, March 8th, 2013


    Mobile learning has become increasingly important in recent years with the emergence of smart phones and tablets. It means that learning anywhere, any time is now a real possibility. Mobile devices enable learners to interact with materials in engaging ways and to communicate with peers through a variety of channels. Therefore the most recent elearning papers special issue on mobile learning is timely and provides an upto date account of current research on the use of mobile devices for learning.

    The first article, ‘OER in the Mobile Era: Content Repositories’ Features for Mobile Devices and Future Trends’ by Tabuernca et al., focuses on learning objects and, in particular, their creation, publication, discovery, acquisition, access, use and re-use. It reports on the findings from a survey of 23 educational providers focusing on how learning objects can be used on mobile devices.

    Bollaert and Justino describe the GGULIVRR project (Generic Game for Ubiquitous Learning in Interactive Virtual and Real Realities). The aim of the  project GGULIVRR is to present learning communities with a framework that enables learners to practice and enhance 21st century skills while generating and playing mobile contextual games.

    The M-portfolios project is described in the article by Tur and Carnacho. The focus of the project is on using mobiles to document learning in student teachers’ e-portfolios. They describe a nice framework for guiding this, which consists of three aspects: documentation, reflection and collaboration./mentoring. E-portfolios are increasingly important in terms of lifelong learning and are of particular use in vocational courses, as a means of learners’ reflection on the application of the theory they have learnt to work-based contexts and as a mechanism of gathering and documenting evidence of their learning.

    The paper ‘Mobile Learning and Cloud Computing at Estonian Schools’ by Lorenz and Kikkas reports on a study looking at the use of mobile devices in schools. The results indicate that there are mixed views on their use in a school context, in particular teachers appear to lack the motivation to use mobile learning.

    The international perspective is addressed in the paper by Buchan et al. entitled ‘Designing and Developing Mobile Learning Applications in International Student Teams.’ The paper describes a project in which students from different universities designed and developed mobile learning applications, working together in interdisciplinary teams using social and mobile media.

    Meiers considers the shift from e-learning to m-learning. She provides a comprehensive overview of mobile learning and critiques some of the current challenges.

    I would agree with the editors’ (Wolpers and Koskinen) comment in the editorial, that ‘the articles clearly demonstrate that mobile learning is moving beyond its early infancy’. Together these papers provide a rich overview of current developments in the use of mobile devices across different learning contexts. It is clear that mobile learning is becoming increasingly important, but that there are still some challenges associated with widespread adoption.  

    Teacher networks

    Thursday, March 7th, 2013


    It was good to catch up with Riina Vuorikari earlier this week in Brussels. She gave me a copy of an interesting booklet called ‘Teacher Networks’.  It focuses on the ways in which teachers are now harnessing the power of social media. The booklet starts with a quote from Derrick de Kerckhove: ‘It’s all about connected intelligence’. Teacher networks are defined as:

    Learning networks technology-supported communities through which learners share knowledge with each other and jointly develop new knowledge.

    The ultimate aim is to improve the quality of teaching and enhance the learner experience. The booklet describes the Teachers’ Lifelong Learning Networks (Telnet) project, cialis which aimed to identify the main structures and mechanisms that are effective in sharing practices and encouraging innovation and creativity amongst teachers. Chapter 2 outlines the main trends and drivers for educational change. This includes: 

    • The changing role of the teacher as a result of new technologies. In particular as learning becomes more personalised, the notion of the one-size-fits-all method of teaching is outdated.
    • Teacher training. Teachers lack the necessary digital literacy skills to harness the potential of new technologies and need support and professional development to develop these. Teachers need to experience a wide range of different learning environments.
    • Teacher networks. New media provide a mechanism for teachers to network with other teachers globally.
    • 21st Century skills. New skills are needed as a result of the potential of new technologies
    • The role of schools. We need to think beyond formal education, to learning anywhere, anytime.
    • Formal and informal learning. With the emergence of innovative technologies, learning is no longer confined to the classroom.
    • Technology innovation and widespread use of technologies. Social media and tablet technologies provide a plethora of ways in which teachers and learners can communicate and interact.
    • Data protection, data privacy and trust in networks. Data protection regulates control over how personal data as a commodity is exploited by third parties. Privacy is the right of the individual to be oneself, undisturbed and unobserved.

     Five scenarios of the future are described:

    • eNet European Education Network, with a focus on expansion of the eTwinning initiative
    • MyNetwork, exploring user-centred social networking
    • Intelligent agents, adopting a technology-focused approach
    • Diversified teaching career, shifting to autonomous learning and teachers as mentors
    • Informal learning camps, promoting bottom-up peer learning.

    The booklet is available online, well worth a look.