CALRG Conf: Size matters

Rebecca Ferguson on ‘use of visual elements to support knowledge construction in asynchronous dialogue’.

Currently works on Social Learn project, but this work is from her PhD.  About collaborative learning online – asynchronous dialogue. Cooperation, collaboration – discussion, debate and community. Study was on FirstClass (OU tool), but also as used on Flickr discussions, Twitter, Cloudworks.

Real-world situation has more ‘backchannel’ communication – non-language aspects. Gestures, gaze, affect. Contention that there is less of this online.

Textual example – concrete poem, changes the form and content. (example Roger McGough 1971 ’40-love’). Example of journal article analysing it – with page break in the middle of it. It’s hard to talk about these things in academic contexts – the journal insists on its own format, colour, size, pagination, flow. When she writes things up, has to put text in to images to ensure it is displayed correctly.

Theoretical framework – Kress & van Leeuwen (2006) on visual analysis.

Reading paths – are widely known within the culture; can tell when it’s not correct – start in top-left. Reading a Japanese Manga comic is hard if you’re not acculturated to it. Similar/parallel devices in other contexts like journal articles.

Her research on extended learning online at the OU, all on First Class (now superseded by Moodle/VLE). Postings have framings, contexts – header, letter-style format, etc.

Example – separating out ideas with framing. Some structuring not possible in face-to-face. Reply highlighting – again, online possible online to give that structure. Subtle indications about importance.

Seems obvious to people who know how to do this – but not everyone does it well without learning. But can do complex and subtle work around authority and responsibility through quoting, complimenting, mirroring, showing empathy.

Another example of a huge discussion managed through use of colour, headings, layout.

Was talking to Moodle development team, had decided to switch off things like colour, size and so on, because not very important (!).

Many people make huge use of these, they are important.

Size matters – and colour, and layout – without them the sense is lost.


Jon Rosewell: Different students working differently on FirstClass – was it a client versus web-interface issue?

Rebecca: Could be. But was clear in different groups – if someone (usually the tutor) was modelling those behaviour, other people would tend to follow. But if nobody led, nobody did it. Also carried things over from one piece of software to another. So not entirely about the software default setup.

Ruslan: Synchronous communication – students agreeing when to come together for e.g. live voice interaction. We know that’s important. Were there examples of that? Mobile, landlines?

Rebecca: Were certain times when groups came together synchronously, or tried to. Not so much phone. Did do in FirstClass, or IM – when had a time-limited decision to make, or a hard deadline. Didn’t manage to get everybody together because of other demands on their time. Was all assessed collaborative work – so tutor guided them away from e.g. email – some baseline marks for participation online.

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CALRG Conf: Artcasting

Koula Charitonos, PhD student.

Question: What do you think a museum is? Took some time for museums to agree – but ICOM 2001 have agreed it – includes service of society, open to public, tangible & intangible heritage, education, study and enjoyment.

First physical museum C17th, now a ‘distributed network’ as Museum 2.0. Co-creation important. Focus on podcasting – not from institution, but created by users. Looking at artworks on a website.

Museums are (mainly) about objects; need to know about how to interpret them – Bourdieu on ‘interpretive strategies’. Assumption – if give children opportunities to view art on their terms, then will break down access barriers. Museums investing lots in online; know that they’re visited but not how they’re used in the classroom.

Research framework ‘Inspiring Learning for All’. Five generic learning outcomes – widely used in museum sector.

Case study on Tate Kids – includes ‘my gallery’ feature where users can add artworks, upload their own, comment, rate, share. 43 children in Year 5. Pre/post questionnaire, intervention with pre/post interpretation phases, followup interviews. Qualitative content analysis plus some basic quantitative.

Some interesting responses – I thought of nothing, my mind was blank’ – then had more by end ‘It’s a woman dead in the river and flowers are falling fro the trees above her […]’. Were making observations, but not involved in dialogic conversations, and not interested in that – just appeared as a series of unrelated posts.

‘Artcasts’ were object created by kids in process; audio recording of intepretations on artworks, with researcher as prompter. Thirteen audio files created, about 30-40 minutes long. Entertaining stuff! There were references to artist and title, drawing on social techniques, making up a story, drawing on personal associations (somewhat), and exploring the meaning (a little). Discussed visual elements, but in basic terminology; a few drew on process of art-making. Only one group placed an artwork in a historical context – when prompted to look at the year of creation.

Findings: the kids enjoyed artcasting. Participants were employing a wider range of ‘interpretative strategies’, and use of website can enhance learning, can be beneficial, contextual tools require to enable interpretation and meaning-making process.


Kim: Role of researcher. Would need an adult to do something, or could embed in to software?

Koula: Could be teacher. I was trying not to impose my ideas. Was useful to have another person there.

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CALRG Conference: Personal Inquiry

Liveblog of two presentations in a row at the CALRG conference.

Personal Inquiry: OU experience

Cindy Kerawalla and Mark Gaved on OU view.

OU/Nottingham collaborative project funded by EPSRC/ESRC TLRP. Developing a toolkit (nQuire) to support personal inquiry learning across formal and informal settings – launch event next month. Very much an iterative approach. KS3 students – 11-14. Seven trials, 300 students, 7 teachers. Coming to end of third and final year.

Kit consists of: Eee netbooks with toolkit loaded on, plus other equipment – sensors from ScienceScope (humidity, temperature etc), cameras, GPS devices. (Tongue-in-cheek Hint: Give students small memory cards, limits the photos you need to analyse!)

Structuring an inquiry process, task sequencing and orchestration, enabling collaboration.

Four trials at OU – mainly geography. Two on urban heat islands (2008, 2009), with whole-year GCSE groups. Comparing walk across Milton Keynes and Northampton. Toolkit enables hypothesis, data collection, collation, and export. Another on Microclimates (2008), around school playground, collecting data. Again supported by toolkit. Final study after-school club on sustainability of the food production cycle – interested in packaging and storage (rotting!). Less formal context.

Conclusions: supports process of making familiar strange; flexibility; joint negotiation, personalisation of inquiry. Supports informal settings, cognitive engagement, and organisation/monitoring of activity.

Next steps: further analysis, rollout of toolkit nQuire (after launch event mentioned above – currently redirects to PI project page), trials on difference mobile devices, and application to FE/HE.

Shailey Minocha: How adaptive is the toolkit?

Cindy: Can choose data, measures and so on.

Mark: Initial work on structure, but now emphasis on flexibility.

Personal Inquiry: Nottingham experience

Stamatina Anastopoulou presents.

Process is a bit different from OU version; more explicit mention of the stages in the process.

Trial in Nov 2009 – Noise pollution and birds’ eating habits. Year 8 students (13-year-olds). Whole class development from initial views, expert ecology prompts, to research question. Set of learning activities designed to support sense of ownership of investigation, multiple phases of inquiry, multiple data collection methods, individual, group & class orchestration of activities. Field trip to nature reserve, took sound sensor, GPS, photos (GPS-linked). Then visualisation of data using Google Earth. Site has a lot of noise – train tracks, M1, East Midlands airport. Then at school collected similar data around school grounds. Found that in noisy areas, most food was eaten (counter to prediction) – was because one big bird there was unaffected and ate the lot. Smaller birds ate at other feeders and ate less.

More controlled investigation in a garden as an experiment. Set up feeders – one on a quiet tree, and another with a radio next to it as source of noise. Less food eaten by the noisy tree.

Much data collection – pre/post questionnaires, log files, video, interviews, artefacts, observation notes.

Successes around collecting data, seeing data and children’s responses showing understanding.

Concerns around the time taken, and continuity of teaching.

Critical incidents analysis – children need to understand science practised differently in different contexts; transitions between learning settings are potential source of breakdown. Also problems with institutionally provided devices.


Patrick: Different tools between Nottingham/OU? Did you look at other sequencing tools like IMS, LAMS etc.

Stamatina: Was different, now the same. Did look at other possible tools.

Mark: You saw slightly different versions of the tool, has been developed across project. Local instantiations were different. Have web-based authoring tool, so can create different structures for different experiments. Localising the tool was necessary – e.g. to match language used by teachers.

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CALRG Conference: The CERD model

Another liveblog from the CALRG conference – this time Pauline Ngimwa on The CERD model: three possible approaches to designing collaborative educational digital libraries.

Work in progress, looking for feedback.

Motivated by own experience working in African educational sector, and disconnect between developers of eLearning programmes and digital library programmes.

Digital libraries can benefit if that apply participatory designs, new web technologies, design collaboratively with users, and along with learning objectives.

Qualitative research work – three case studies in Uganda, Kenya and South Africa. 42 interviews with academics, students, librarians and project staff; observations and document analysis; looking at 11 projects. ‘Almost’ grounded theory.

First approach (C-I) is around collaboration and innovation.

Second approach (E-I-C) around education, innovation and collaboration.

Third approach (I-C-QI) around innovation, collaboration and quality innovation.

Exploring relationship between those.


Kim Issroff: Who decides on what counts as a quality innovation in I-C-QI?

Pauline: If interviewee, or in the documents, says it.

Anna: Grounded theory – why ‘almost’?

Pauline: Didn’t intend to use Grounded Theory initially, but found in the process that it would be useful. But even now keeps returning to the data.

Anne: Surprising that (1) very large importance of policies, the innovative stuff happens when there’s policy behind it, (2) Being HCI user-centred person, thought collaboration was important, but data found was driven by innovation, and technology innovation specifically. Parallels clear with UK situation.

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The Impact (or not) of E-Books

An IET Tech Coffee Morning on eBooks, with a panel discussion: Giles Clark (co-publishing guru), Agnes Kukulska-Hulme (learning tech prof), Keren Mills (exciting innovation honcho in the Library), Rhodri Thomas (Learning Innovation genius), Claire Grace (head of licensing and content in the Library), Gerald Schmidt (development adviser expert in LTS).

Giles chairs and introduces a glittering array of OU experts. (Liz Mallet can’t make it. ) Continue reading “The Impact (or not) of E-Books”

Ten Tips For Coping With Lots Of Rough Nights

My namesake and fellow educational technologist Doug Belshaw has some handy tips for remaining productive after a rough night. There’s a big difference between coping with a single bad night’s sleep, and coping with chronic sleep deprivation. As Doug B says,

Whether it’s being woken up several times by our children, the eternal racket of noisy neighbours, or simply going to bed late and sleeping restlessly, we’ve all been in the situation where we need to be productive after a rough night.

But some people have to cope with the situation where where they need to remain productive after a prolonged series of rough nights, with no immediate prospect of improvement. It could be caring responsibilities of some sort, it could be a chronic health condition, it could be really very antisocial neighbours, or numerous other things. As one who is emerging slowly from just such a situation after several years, I can attest that what you need to do is very different. So, for instance, Doug B’s first tip is:

1. Don’t snooze

The likelihood is that if you’re having a rough night you’ll probably wake up half an hour to an hour before your usual waking-up time. Get up! Whilst it’s tempting to stay in bed, snoozing actually has a worse effect on your productivity than getting up and getting on with your day.

You can always go to bed early at the other end!

This is great advice … unless there’s no prospect of you going to bed any earlier at the other end.

So here’s my – fairly unscientific – set of ten tips for anyone facing a similar situation.

Continue reading “Ten Tips For Coping With Lots Of Rough Nights”