CALRG 30th Anniversary – Session 3

[Crossposted to Cloudworks]

Adrian Kirkwood

Evaluating the OU Home Computing policy. First courses in 1988. A meta-project, an organisational activity.

Previously, provided students with computing facilities since 1970s – remote access and at study centres etc.  Desktop computers entered the mass market.  New Home Computing Policy required students – on a few, specific courses – to arrange their own access to a PC.  Huge change in practice, not just for students.

The Home Computer required: “an MS-DOS machine with 512K memory, disk storage, mouse, and capable of supporting graphics”, “the technical strategy does depend on having an MS-DOS capability for under £500”.

Courses: M205 Fundamentals of Computing – ‘foundation’ computing course. DT200 Intro to IT. Sent them a modem! M353 Computational Mathematics – modelling tool.

Very high priority. Practical arrangements, additional costs, course completion impact?

Evaluation team within IET – Tony Kate, Ann Jones, Gill Kirkup, Adrian Kirkwood, Robin Mason, short-term assistants. Interested in longer-term educational and social issues associated with the change, not (just) the logistical and practical ones. Different ways of working all round.

Issues:  Implications for course design. How it could enhance T&L and support.  CMC – very important for a distance education institution, big shift for OU. Many questions about access and equal opps, especially wrt gender and age – a ‘yuppie’ effect on recruitment patterns? Social and physical context – loss of control and knowledge of the setup by the organisation. Institutional change.

Example – DT200 student read “when you receive your materials, copy your materials as a backup”. Student took a photocopy.

What happened?  It wasn’t a disaster in the first year, “we got away with it”, senior management lost interest in those aspects. More course teams added, wealth of information collected and alanysed for internal reports and external publication. Was it institutional research or academic research, or both? It varied across a spectrum.

New, current, project – “English in Action” in Bangladesh – DfID funding over 9 years.  Developing communicative English – spoken particularly – through technology-enhanced interventions.  Access there is still a big issue.

Mike Sharples

Was only here for two years “but it seems like a lot longer”; partly because keeps coming back but partly because it was a very formative experience.  First proper job after PhD. Partly because job interview on 8 Dec 1980 and heard that John Lennon had died, important transition time.  Partly because first person met was Liz Beattie, became partner.

CYCLOPS – in 1980- a telewriting system.  30 years ahead of its time. Had great help – a personal PA, and resources of BT to redevelop it to his requirements.

It was to support OU tutoring – students in Regions – either had telephone tutorials or had to drive to the regional centre.  CYCLOPS meant they could go to a nearby study centres – a few miles rather than fifty or more.

Shared screen telewriting plus phone conference – like an OHP at a distance. Could write, pre-prepared slides, overlay, multiple interaction.  True WYSIWIS. Up to 10 centres connected in a live meeting.  Students preferred it to the other options.

So why not used now?  Framework for evaluation – look micro (HCI), meso, macro (organsitional) levels at each of usability, usefulness, efficiency, etc.

It worked!  Familiar system image (OHP), students operated it with no training.  Opened a cupboard door, connect it up, get it working … and it was Ok. BT conferencing centres started off – BT conference operators weren’t used to managing data connections, so had to set up their own.  Suited lots of interaction.

Worked at meso level too – tutors adapted it to their teqaching style. Adopted conventions – e.g. signing in with your handwriting at the start, identity.  Cyclops studio for pre-prepared illustrations – early Photoshop facility.

At the macro level … it worked for students, matched their needs.  Wrong business model – saved student travel costs but increased OU costs, for facilitator and line charges.  Unacceptable transfer (and increase) of costs.

Fast forward … to Smart Meeting Pro.  By Canadian company that developed SMARTboard.  Meeting room and conferencing system with telewriting system. “See how to write over applications”

Will it work? Probably not.  Micro – over-complex, is an add-on.  Meso – integration and purpose (vs smart boards).  Macro – connections (critical mass required) and meeting support.  Which is a bit sad.

(Mike’s lab do a lot of work with tech companies comparing/evaluating their tools like this.)

For technology to really take off, it has to: appeal to the youth market, and fit in to their social life.  Mini car in the 1960s – part of the 60s social life of London.  The CD-ROM – when marketed as serious CD-I as educational tool got nowhere, took off when part of computer games.  SMS and texting – small business market until teenagers discovered social uses.

What would happen for telewriting with young people and social networking?  Perhaps the new Nokia 5800 – Facebook, touchscreen – ‘tap here to write something’.  Combine Facebook (social) with telewriting.

Andrew Ravenscroft

Digital dialogues for thikning and learning.

Ideas came from conceptual change in science: collaborative argumentation key in realising stable conceptual change and development.  So developed dialogue modelling work-benge (CoLLeGE), then dialogue games (CSCL), then more flexible, powerful and easily-deployable digital dialogue game tools (InterLoc).

Learners in the ‘social web’ makes this even more crucial.  Worries about ‘The Thinker’, and Vygotsky. Greater emphasis on ‘learning dialogue’ but internalising what?  Home brew vs brewed by experts – quick and inexpert vs long-run.  Homebrew intellect vs Grolsch intellect.

What are we designing, predominantly?  New spaces for learning. Socio-cognative tools.  Improved semantic back-ends and knowledge networks.  Ambient pedagogies and ‘experience design’.  And ‘deep’ learning design.

Need to manage – or constrain – complexit.  Intelligent ‘anti-social’ software – from semantic web to the intentional web?  Sensible computing?  Bouncers on the door of courses.

Patrick McAndrew

Found his interview presentation from when he came to the OU.  Found a picture on his current website taken well before the slides were written.  Reanalysed it as a Wordle – tasks, framework, learning, course.  ‘Open’ doesn’t appear at all.

“Walter Perry told his new staff … .to design the teaching system to suit an individual working in a lighthouse off the coast of Scotland” – Sir John Daniels (no evidence found of whether Walter Perry said precisely that, but it was an idea in circulation)

Open then meant: contained, controlled, costed (course in a box) BUT ALSO available, accessible, all-inclusive, supported.  But that lighthouse keeper audience is shrinking.  Checked the quote a while ago, found a lighthouse keeper doing an OU course … and keeping a blog!  So the audience is changing.  People’s bags contain ‘too much technology’, world is becoming much more connected.

There is still a digital divide, but it’s not for us to solve.  If we assume the problems people have, we’ll get it wrong.  We should reach to the world out there, other initiatives address the digital divide.

We have gone open with our materials – OpenLearn.  Have learning that people are interested in the content, and the social connectivity.

Did a more current Wordle on last paper (with Grainne, Doug, et al) – OER, Learning, design, process, use, resource.  Getting Grolsch for free!

OLnet is about being open to the world in all sorts of ways, including our research approach.  Openness is at the bottom of communicate, share, learn.

Need to move to a more open version of open-ness, free up the control we have of the students. Accept that there is a free route.

Open now = unlimited, freed, free BUT ALSO available, accessible, connected, empowered.

CALRG 30th Anniversary – Session 2

[Crossposted to Cloudworks]

John Cook

Slides available in Slideshare.

Snapshot 1 – Cooperative Problem-Seeking Dialogues in Learning. (2000) to Snapshot 2 – Going for a Local Walkabout: Putting Urban Planning Education in Context with Mobile Phones. (2009)

Music a key feature throughout.  MetaMuse designed to adaptively structure interactions between pairs of cooperating learners – decisions made about traversing State Transition Networks (STNs). AI basis.  Lisp/Mac based.  Generated musical ideas fast so they could get verbalisation/externalisation leading to self-regulation/self-diagnosing – problem-seeking.

Picking up models of how pairs of cooperating learners.

Now at London Met, strange news lately, Learning Technology Research Institute. Prof of TEL, half-time helping university with e-learning. A pocket of excellence in the RAE.  RLO CETL, FP7 project CONTSENS, mobile learning, work with Agnes Kukulska-Hulme.  Urban area study, capturing pictures/VR as they go around. GPS-triggered events, show you old photographs/newsreels of the same area. Students work in pairs to solve tasks.  Schools started looking like prisons, then flatter.  High-end phones (HTC Diamond/N95), builtin voice recorder for capture of notes.

Continuity – the song remains the same?

User data still at the centre, and adaptively structuring interactions.

Important research issues: equity of access to cultural resources for education; learner generated context; appropriation; mobility and learning pathways; informal learning.

Informal learning has taken him to being an Investigative DJ on

Rick Holliman

Diverse media in here, multiple streams of information, affects how we use and produce information.  Particularly interested in science communication.

Abstract done as tweets – key events.

Followed Martian invasion – meteorite harbouring fossilised remains of ancient bacteria (?). Very controversial – was it an artifact or a real microfossil?  Much tabloid interest; interested in how science communicated in the media.

Then Dolly the sheep, 1997. Key questions – why is there only one sheep? Because the scientists doing it didn’t expect it to work, so used genetic material from their freezer … and then it did. So some controversy in the scientific – but not public – media about whether she was an actual clone because the background testing not done.

Another thing at the same time … shift in to online word in terms of news, around the UK general election. Guardian Unlimited, Electronic Telegraph.

Finger-length ratio: established in the womb, dependent on hormone balance at that time.  That’s fairly clear, but what that means in later life is much less clear.

Broadsheets changed from broad to tabloid , or compact, or Berliner. Categorisation becomes difficult – and newspapers exist in multiple formats too.  ‘Elite and popular’ almost works for printed media, but not for broadcast or online.

Language is changing, the way we describe things is also changing: abuse of vowels and pronouns is rife. The result of txting?

Many complexities of consumption and production, and data collection and analysis.

Claire O’Malley

Her new boss was on the Dolly the sheep team … and he has finished where she’s finishing.  Twenty years from NATO Advanced Research Workshop 1989, to CSCL 2009.

Conference proceedings in 1989 used a cartoon of ‘Computer-Supported Co-operative Learning’ showing a teacher standing on a computer (Mac SE) as a podium, pointing at a blackboard with ‘E=mc^2’ (shared representation), computer supporting interaction (!) but not getting in the way of teacher-student interaction (looking at each other).

Shared representations – several projects. Conceptual Change in Science. Ros Driver. 1980s, Ideas still here in latest project. More recently: Ambient Wood (Yvonne Rogers) – same thing but the technology is different. Get students to investigate real things, unmediated, but script the investigation (scripting is CSCL current buzzword) – give them representations of those.  Now Personal Inquiry (PI) with Eileen Scanlon et al.  Again, new technology but idea the same: unmediated science, mediation to help learners talk about it.

Another strand – communication. Shared ARK – Josie Taylor, Simon Buckingham Shum. Video-mediated communication with shared science simulation. Real-world question about whether to run or walk in the rain. (Answer is a brisk walk.) High-quality analogue video, real time, even enabled eye contact. (Cool!)  Video-Mediated Communication – link to superfast Janet ATM connect, very high-bandwidth digital video early/mid 90s – two video streams at once! Focus on talk that was produced. Task – same map, other instructs on a route using talking-heads video.

Interesting snippets of findings from all this video:

Despite the quality of connection – bandwidth, latency, eye contact – people don’t talk the same way as if they were face-to-face.  They just don’t.  Whether in next room or across continents.  The task can be differentially affected by that.

So if you want a bargain and you’re on dodgy ground, use the telephone not the video. If your case is strong, use video because you can persuade more.

People think that if they’re on a video, they’ll somehow leak the truth when they’re trying to deceive.  Likewise, they think they can pick up lies from others.  But people are awful at spotting lies on video, and if they do leak the truth when trying to deceive, it’s by voice, not by what they show.

People who can see each other tend to say less than on audio-only channels; gestures – nodding etc – are crucial to maintaining smoothness of interaction.

LEAD project – EU-funded – mediating f2f communication with computers using text chat … like we’re doing now in this conference with the Twitter backstream.  Good route for more interactive lectures.

Digital Replay System – these contexts produce great streams of data that take ages to analyse and make sense of.  National Centre for e-Social Science, to help people make sense of large datasets like this.  Digital ethnographyThings like auto-analysis of head-nodding.

On the ‘Horizon’ – new EPSRC Digital Economy Hub – at Nottingham – research on ubiquitous computing, big building.  Cloud computing, specks etc … very many people you don’t know will have a lot of data about you that you don’t know. How do we make it acceptable for people that they do? How do we deal with issues of privacy, identity, security?

Computers and Learning Research Group (CALRG) 30th Anniversary – Session 1

[Crossposted as a cloud in the Cloudworks cloudscape for this event.]

Notes from the Computers and Learning Research Group (CALRG) 30th Anniversary Conference, 18 May 2009, Jennie Lee Building, The Open University.

Opening from Josie Taylor, Director of IET, and then intro from Gráinne Conole mentioning the Cloudworks cloudscape for the conference.

Ann Jones

First project, late 80s – tutorial CAL evaluation – a project called Cicero.  Students accessed it by study centres or by post.  Findings: students found it useful (17%!), but used it less over time. They talked about it being useful, but had a cost/benefit analysis in their mind of potential benefits versus percieved hassle of using it – in particular Bad Computer Experiences, whether first-hand or indirect.  Things like being locked out of the terminal room, anxiety – fear of secretly being assessed.

More recent approaches include Future Technology Workshops – Mike Sharples and Giasemi Vavoula. Small teams create possible future scenarios of technology that might support pedagogy.  One idea – a little demon on your shoulder telling you information about things and people in your environment, and warning you.

Then Bubble Dialogue – to try to help children with social, emotional or behavioural problems to communivate and express themselves. Speech bubbles shown above cartoony characters – intermediation, roleplay, to enable expression that’d otherwise be tricky. Quite strong emotive/aggressive stuff coming out.

Affect very important, and still is.

Tim O’Shea

Doesn’t think the CAL group has missed much in the last 30 years.

Sad to be an orphan – Leeds CBL unit, Xerox PARC – gone.  Tim and Marc Eisenstadt saw those as the parents. MIT LOGO Lab – also gone. Edinburgh evolves, Stanford and Sussex survive, and child – London Knowledge Lab – looking lively.

CALRG did not look right – very junior staff, very democratic (anarchic), across faculties and a support unit. “Then you should have the whole university!” “Yes, but we can’t persuade the Arts Faculty to join.” IET uneasy about technology (David Hawkridge asked Tim at interview “When you come here you’re not going to do any of that computer stuff are you?”, and he fibbed and said no).  No big grants and no senior management champion.

Had PhD students right from the start. Personal dynamic media, AI/symbolic computation, language & interface design, dev testing, student modelling, simulations, models and visualisation.  And applied the stuff to courses, rather under the radar.

Key projects early – Cyclops (Paul), CSCL (Robin & Tony), Special needs (Tom & Alistair), Theory (Pask 2 – Diana), Home Computing (Norman), DESMOND (John), Shared-ARK (Randall).

The future – Extreme Computing (HeCTOR & specks); Sensible Computing (quite smart via ML); Democratic Computing (wikis, eJournals); Hybrid systems (all modalities); learner/researcher continuum; big issue (for universities) – electronic assessment; non-issue – access or ‘divide’. Technology has not plateaued – there will be bigger, faster computers that can do more.

Heartbreaking thing about AI – when it eventually gets done, people don’t notice it.  Starts with ‘that can’t possibly work’, then taken for granted that system can learn stuff. Long-term dream: smellivision. Haptics and 3D and sounds and colour are all very well but we need smells.

Assessment is the key distinguishing point of universities, and hence eAssessment is the key challenge for the future. But the way we examine is not fit for purpose. Using group work, net resources and so on … then are assessed on high-level skills by sitting at a blank piece of paper with a biro. Need new ways to assess to capture the things they do.

Why are we still here? Kept OU SMT happy 5%, CALRG clearly successful 8%, served university courses 10%, key to OU RAE 12%, recruited bright newcomers 15%, knew the future 20%, happy & jolly community 30%.

Gráinne Conole

Was told couldn’t be professor of Educational Technology, chose Professor of e-Learning … would now want to be Professor of Technology-Enhanced Learning.

There is an array of technologies … not fully exploited. Saw with the multimedia stuff in the late 80s and the emergence of the web, and still going on.

Potential for resuse with Open Educational Resources … little evidence of reuse.

New pedgagogies and new learning models.

Learning design – to bridge the gap between the affordances of new technologies, characteristics of good pedagogy, and “Open Design” – making the design process more explicit and shareable.

Left university with chemistry degree and got a job. Graduate training programme with Allied Bakeries, became area retail manager for 150 staff in 10 outfits across London. Lasted a year, was absolutely hopeless at it, just wanted to help the staff learn, no interest in business models.  Then PhD in X-ray crystallography, then lecturer posts.  Broke from chemistry at UNL (now London Met), directed Learning and Teaching Innovation, Director of T&L Centre, head of Technology-based learning.  Then Director of ILRT in Bristol from 1999, then to Southampton in 2002.

Karen Littleton

Leverhulme project looking at children’s computer-based problem solving. Computers were very new in the classroom.  Questions: Are two heads better than one? (Quasi-experimental design looking at outcomes versus pair working or independent.)  Impact of gender and ability pairings? Features of dialogue associated with learning outcomes and task performance.  Indicators that joint planning positively affects them.

Many other OU colleagues (CALRG) interested in that as a theme – Eileen, Kim on collaborative learning in primary science.   The quality of the talk and dialogue was not ideal – conflictual dynamics, simple turn-taking, withdrawal.  Much evidence that grouping at computers was common as a strategy, the quality of the joint activity was quite worrying.  Working in groups but rarely as groups.

Distinctive kind of interaction, though: exploratory talk (Douglas Barnes). Tentative expression and evaluation of ideas as collective enterprise. Critical but constructive engagement, reasoned challenges.

So trying to encourage this – developed a teaching programme designed to try to ensure children can add these ways of talking to their repertoires.  Early work was looking at how children collaborate to learn; also about how to support children to collaborate and reason together.

‘Thinking Together’ is an example – 12 lessons, talk-based – to develop a positive culture of working and talking together. Ground rules established then appplication to curriculum area.

Talk in face to face sessions happens in the moment; but computer-supported interaction offer a half-way stage between that ephemerality and paper-based permanence.  They’re captured, but still malleable.  Technologies for writing and drawing can – sensitively deployed – strengthen dialogue.  They’re an ‘improvable object’. Teacher is central.

Journal publishing industry are a load of truckers

David Wiley (coiner of the oft-useful water/polo analogy for online/education) has produced another parable – this time taking a potshot at the journal publishing industry:

Once upon a time there was an inventor. She was brilliant. […] They all set to work. It was alternately glorious and tedious, fulfilling and demoralizing. […] at length the day arrived when they had a product ready to ship!

Relieved, the inventor began contacting shipping companies. But she could not believe what she heard. The truckers would deliver her goods, but only subject to the most unbelievable conditions:

  • the inventor had to agree to ship her product via the one trucking company exclusively,
  • this exclusive shipping deal had to be a perpetual deal, never subject to review or cancelation, and
  • the truckers would be the ones who would sell her product to the public and the truckers would keep all the profits.

Every shipping company she contacted gave the same response. Dejected, but unwilling to see the fruits of all her labor go to waste, she eventually relented and signed a contract with one of the companies.

It is, of course, a story about academics and the journal publishing industry.

This is not a new complaint.  My now-retired colleague (and prolific and widely-read author) Derek Rowntree campaigned at length against the madness that meant he had to apply for permission to use his own writings in his own teaching, which was sometimes denied.

But as I argued in my Scholarly Publishing 2.0 talk, the online world is having two effects.  Firstly, the publishing industry are making the situation worse, e.g. by coming up with new ways to restrict what users of  “content” can do with it (DRM), and charging double-digit inflation year on year on electronic journals when Moore’s Law is driving all other technology products (and content) in the opposite direction.  And secondly, it opens up alternatives – it is possible to do things differently, and to organise a campaign about this.  The whole Open Access movement is a great example of this.

If I gave investment advice – which I don’t, and it would almost certainly not be worth what you are paying for it – I wouldn’t be suggesting Reed Elsevier stock as a great bet for your retirement savings.

Update: Blimey.   Apparently Merck paid Elsevier to publish a fake peer-reviewed medical journal. “Truckers” is perhaps not a rude enough word.