TEL Away Day: Social Learn

[Stephen Godwin has also blogged about the morning session.]

Martin Weller on SocialLearn – movie developed for mtg this afternoon, will go to VCE later.  We get an early draft still in Camtasia.  Microlearner – Move from expressed goals to relevant OERs via a Google CSE?

Then we get it again as a conventional PowerPoint.  Usual outline – part of response to Web 2.0 disruption in education.

SocialLearn is a profile, an API, a suite of learning applications, a site.

New tool called Microlearner – “Little snippets of learning that lead to a vast mind” – writes to and imports goals, resources, stream.  Also 2Learner – create/import goals, tasks, aggregate.  Pull in and publish relevant content (OpenLearn), relevant courses/designs (Cloudworks – “Flickr for learning designs”), publicise what you’re doing via Facebook apps, make connections with Cohere.

For – informal learners, students, educators (create your own PSE), partners, geeks, vocational learners.

Beta (invites) in July.

Business models hard – still don’t know how it’s going to make money, more work needed.  Use as springboard to get research in.  Then at end Feb appoint a ‘grown up director’ and make it all official.

The learner’s profile is held in one place, which is how you pull together everything together.  Though it’s an open API so you could read/write it from elsewhere.

Partnerships – could be e.g. Pearsons, Microsoft, etc.  Critical mass is key and hard to get.  Target two close-to-home groups initially – CPD and potential students who are ELQ and hence put off by high fees.

Is SocialLearn a Creepy Treehouse?  Less so since you give the choice/portability to the student, so they can make the decision about what’s work and what’s fun.    Clash between HE culture – we decide what you learn, and how – vs Web 2.0 where everyone does it.  Martin thinks SocialLearn should sit in the productive middle ground – students appreciate structure but it’s bottom-up – filter on the way out, not the way in (David Weinberger).

Most of Pearson’s money is from accreditation.  Tools For Change meeting – publishers’ get-together.  Trying to push aside HEIs from the business.  The point of SocialLearn is to create the nightmare competitor that puts them off.  A disaggregated education market place.

Relationship between SocialLearn and the OUVLE?  Duplication of MyStuff and profile?  MyStuff is an application that could plug in to the architecture.  SocialLearn could be seen as the VLE-killer (in the far future) – but more likely to be a tool that feeds in to the VLE, but comes with you after you leave university.  Need Eduglu to stick this all together, Microsoft, Cisco are all trying to build this stuff too – so clearly an idea whose time has come.

TEL Away Day: Content

Martin Weller presentation – showing us his Broadcast Strategy Review video [Flash, behind OU firewall]. And his Edupunk Youtube vid. And his Future of content vid. And his Everything is Miscellaneous Slideshare.

You can do all this yourself.

The future of work/learning/recreation is the sweet spot is the overlap between personal/fun/informal and the professional/work/formal.

(Side point – Martin’s created a TEL internal wiki on WetPaint.)

So we – TEL – should get away from doing reports/papers for everything. Broadcast stuff may get reused.

Small groups: think of one thing you do now that could become ‘broadcast’ – what would it look like, how would that be better/worse, what skills/help would you need?


Tension between OU model/skills/unique talents and low-entry barrier/anyone can do it. Scale/QA issues. Good to get students to do it. Tension between fun/social and ‘serious education’ – is the former somewhere we can go? PhD students doing a sales pitch video for what-their-thesis-is – to help develop their fundamental argument. Fundamental skill of being able to identify the main point – and that is a fundamental educational skill, whether in an essay, a blog post or a short mashup vid. We all find it difficult. Being open to creativity through another way. Writing ability and thinking ability and mashup vid ability – are separate skills. So could be a useful extra item in the repertoire for assessment. (A conceptual theremin?!) [This report videoed by Patrick – available later?]

Other feedback – time is a recurrent theme, both how you find the time to do new things, and how much time it takes to produce things like videos when you’re not very skilled. (One group went off task and did things on the TELSNS Ning/blog/Twitter instead.) Low quality is Ok if tradeoff for immediacy.

Digital literacies is a real thing. Martin says it’s not that difficult, but you learn by playing, so it has to be fun to do that. (Hence his sweet spot.) RobinM says it’s a little harder than we might think. Competitions in YouTube/Slideshare for world’s best X – then literacies people coming along to explore why they’re good.

TEL Away Day: second session

The meeting accounting is running at nearly £2600 as we return from coffee.

Instant feedback from the small groups captured by Patrick’s little video tool as talking heads over coffee. (May be available later online?) There’s a general feeling of skepticism bordering on cynicism about some of them but some enthusiasm. Boundaries between the personal and the professional/work worlds – some people mix them seamlessly (apparently) but some people experience a lack of separation between work and other life as very problematic already.

Patrick is going to suggest things we should do:

  • Let’s give Twitter a try. No compulsion but that’s where people will gather. Follow PlantOUTEL if it’s not already following you (so we can see all the TEL people’s Twitter accounts).
  • Wikis – I did a (private) wiki for last year’s conference – but we can use WetPaint, pbWiki, etc, and there is an IET wiki again. Should use for monthly and quarterly reports.
  • Blogs – encourage people to try – let Juliet/Will know and they’ll put it in to the aggregator.
  • KMi tools – do play with them.  Can we occupy Cohere (Compendium?) to support IET’s ideas?
  • Ning – have a look at the Ning Anesa and Rebecca have set up.

TEL Away Day: New ways of working

At an internal conference thingummy – the TEL group (Technology Enhanced Learning) is my organisational bit of IET (for now).

Patrick is encouraging us to use our laptops and do what we want to do, and he knows (and doesn’t mind) that we’re not all paying complete attention all the time (Martin is deep in something). About 24 people, with about 19 laptops (some have none and some have more than one). Wants us to work in new ways.

Has Tony Hirst’s meeting cost counter running – £1690 already just getting coffee (although £1500 is the meeting room hire). Many techies in one room gives plenty of people who can fix tech issues … but also creates more tech issues to fix. (Sound issues, projector not showing whole screen, etc.)

Grainne: Write down a really great teaching and learning idea – on slips of paper. Pin up on wall, tick ones you like, the winner will get a box of chocolates. Link to Learning Design work and CloudWorks.  (Except lots of people don’t have accounts and Juliet who issues them is off on honeymoon … another tech issue. And Twitter is intermittently giving the FailWhale.)

Patrick: Wikinomics is widely read in the OU.  Lots of people in the room have blogs; only about two have one on the official internal OU blog hosts.

Groupwork – four or five groups, way in which we can adopt open technologies to help us work, what are our preferred ones.

Extensive small group discussion about tools and their use – distinguishing between social, organisational, and purposeful/educational use.  Then a lot of discussion about our experiences of using stuff as diverse as Twitter and Cohere.

CALRG Conference – day 1

Notes from the 29th Computers And Learning Research Group annual conference. I’m discussant for the first day.

[Added later: This was liveblogging but due to my stupidity with the Save instead of the Publish button it’s 24h later than what one could with entirely reasonably call live..]

Designing Learning activities: processes, tools and research issues (Andrew Brasher, Simon Cross, Grainne Conole)

“We’re now starting to expand”

Shift of focus from content to activity (so I’m producing more content)

How can we design learning activities which make effective use of tools and pedagogy? How can we scaffold and support the design process?

Been going for 1y, funding till Dec 09; focus shifting from developing tools to rolling out and embedding in Faculties from Autumn.

Gathering empirical evidence to understand the design process. Case studies, workshops, interviews, course observation & evaluations.

IMS Learning Design needs you to be able to think like a computer programmer; it produces executable code. LAMS is easier to use but still is executable. But neither support the design development process, or offline activities.

So CompendiumLD – and specialised notation (loose). Generally, time flows downwards (like UML swim lanes but less formal). Actors perform actions making use of tools and resources to reach a specific outcome. Has context-sensitive help – gives you tools based on the label you type (keyword lookup – discuss, organise); also ‘more about instant messaging’ – Google Custom Search Engine.

Schneiderman 2007 – tools to support creativity – functionality that a tool should offer:

Low thresholds, high ceilings and wide walls.

Next developments to tool: time estimates. Also visual mapping of activities to learning outcomes.

Discussion about evaluating learning design. Consensus that it’s really complex, especially separating influences. (Interesting conversation with David Hawkridge about contrast between being didactic and being learner-led – Betty Collis example about oil rig engineers Masters. Students agree the assessment criteria – and perhaps the assessment itself. And curriculum. But tension with defined/fix curricula and hence accreditation, which is Universities’ USP (?).)

Simon’s tall so can’t read notes if they’re on a table, so he brings along a stand for his notes to sit on (a document stand usually used beside a monitor).

Case studies – feedback that it’s difficult to abstract from specific examples – but the converse is also hard.

Evaluation is hard, complex, evidence tricky.

Feedback in formative e-assessment: closing the loop in distance learning (Stylianos Hatzipanagos)

Project mostly at King’s Learning Institute; funded by Centre for Dist Ed of Uni of London. Also includes Bob McCormick. Three ODL environments (King’s, UoL external programmes, OU); investigation of relationship between formative assessment and learning technologies. Models of formative assessment. Technologies work has mostly been about objective tests rather than effective assessment (depending on what you mean by effective, of course!) vs Bob McCormick (2004) saying promotes innovation and deeper thinking.

Research-led institutions focus on examining/summative. UoL external programmes are very diverse. OU emphasis on periodic assessment and systematic provision of feedback.

Some tutors equated ‘formative assessment’ with ‘continuous assessment’.

‘Closing the loop’ formative feedback rarely takes place in courses with emphasis on end of year (summative) assessment.

Cross-fertilisation between distance learning and f2f learning would be good.

Improving spoken English with ICT? ‘English in Action’ in Bangladesh (Adrian Kirkwood)

Light relief break – just a few ramblings (!). Big motivator of break between Pakistan and Bangladesh (independence 1971) was Urdu vs Bangla. So teaching English is an interesting project. “Very flat” – like Norfolk.

DfID funding for 9y (!) from May 2008, launched from Downing St, aims to have impact on 25m people. (Out of 150m population.) Request came from Bangladesh – tool for participation in global economy, empowerment and development.

Partners: BBC World Service Trust, OLSET (South Africa), OU. TV and radio programmes, mobile devices stuff. Builds on experience of OU’s DEEP Project in southern Africa … also TESSA? OU bit focusing on developing teachers.

English already major timetabled subject in school; aim to improve communicative skill, rather than written exams which you can pass by learning the grammar rules. (Why not change the assessment? Hard to do.) Problem with low skills level in (communicative) English in the teachers too.

Parallels with situation in Southern Europe (Spain, Greece, Portugal etc) and Japan right now too – very little oral work in English assessment.

Another big project where it’s hard to pick out a big-R Research angle from the general this-is-a-good-thing development one.

Navigate through materials: redesigning a language course with a modular flexible approach (Fernando Rosell-Aquilar)

Issues on existing Level 1 courses feeding in to remake: Poor retention. Too much content, inaccurate timings, repetition, linear/directive structure with little flexibility.

So took ‘learning objects’, modular approach. First on L140, Spanish.

Students approached from different places and all thought they’d started from the ‘right’ place. One found the approach ‘random’. Free to make choices.

Blended tutor support – f2f, Lyceum, telephone, forum, student support.

Have a blog directory of all students – using the Glossary functionality in Moodle! So students can put their own entry in. But can also change your entry when you post to blog so can see who’s updated via Browse by Date function in Glossary.

Chris and Chetz in the Datacapture Suite with wikis, blogs and learning objects (Chris Pegler and Chetz Colwell)

Accessibility in the Web 2.0 environment. Work in context of PROWE (with Leicester) and Stor Curam – now Learning Exchange. Repository projects. Expert accessibility.

Parallel with Web 2.0 with the introduction of Windows, when whole load of new accessibility issues emerged and a lot of catch-up needed.

Big problem with accessibility features being present but not ‘visible’. Classic errors with tab order wrong, labels for textareas wrong, and so on. There are techniques and ways of doing this right but often don’t.

Tagcloud vs JAWS … reads it with ‘link …’ after each word. And no indication of the size of the tag. Information in the popup, also hidden from JAWS (doesn’t read TITLE elements by default – which you want). Could simply include the number in the tag itself, which is probably better than a separate list (and is better for all, too!).

Video records useful for mediating in disputes about what you’ve found. (“The users are using it wrong!”)

Equability and dominance in online forums (Jon Rosewell and Tony Hirst)

Analysis of dominance of forums by small number of posters – only looking at number of posts (for now, because it’s easy). Could lead to dashboard approach to monitor health of forums. (Link to Student Support Review?)

Mostly large, moderated without tutors (peer support). 10pt/10wk courses, 100-800 students. 4 courses, 36 forums, 3000 posters, 27000 posts. Forums with ostensibly different purposes.

Robin Mason rule of thirds – 1/3 post many, 1/3 post few, 1/3 lurk. Bit more subtle. Also do-not-attend at all.

Pattern of posts made by posters – oh wow, it looks like a power law. Small number making a lot of posts, long tail making very little. Jon calls it a J-shaped distribution. Showed neat animation of patterns from loads of course/presentation and they look very, very similar.

Ecological analogy – communities often composed of dominant species plus long tail of rare species – biodiversity indexes. Indexes need to capture both richness (species count) and equitability (relative abundance of species). Shannon’s index widely used.

The distributions in the model go straight when plotted as log … but not for real data in biology (get S-shaped curve). His forum data aren’t straight or sigmoid, it’s a curve.

Diversity vs richness data cluster very closely on a curve. Equitability doesn’t vary with richness (number of participants). Startlingly little variability by different conferences apart from bare number of people.

No. of posters versus number of posts – seems to tail off: as the number of posts increases, the proportion of people prepared to contribute tails off. (Causality direction though.) End up with one person writing 10% of the posts … pretty much all the time, over a certain size of forum.

Patterns of participation seem remarkably consistent – so doesn’t tell us much about what makes for good forums! (Although these are all open, general forums with no direction.)

But the patterns are only in terms of the maths – the experience would be very different in many different forums. Whaddaya know, qual and quant give you different structures.

Link to Clay Shirky’s work on power laws and blogs. And my playing about with the KN – docs by user, downloads by doc – all look the same.

Using computer tools to scaffold argumentation: A case study in a postgraduate science community (Canan Blake and Eileen Scanlon)

InterLoc tool – built by Digital Dialog Games JISC project and many others. Rules and roles for participants: highly structured/reasoned dialogue, based around ‘locution openers’.

Latest version – InterLoc3 – is web-based.

Trial sessions, based around discussions of controversial topics (creationism in schools, DNA database). Does keep tone civil, and collaborative questioning, clarifying and justifying positions takes place.

Have to look at content of the discussion, not mechanical features, to see the value. So content analysis is next step.

The (In)visible WItness project: working with children and young people to explore gendered representations of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Jenni Carr, Liz Whitelegg, Rick Holliman, Eileen Scanlon and Barbara Hodgson)

Research with children & young people, not on. Dave Gauntlett (1996) quote about children being ‘researched on’ rather than ‘worked with’. So conceptualise children as active interpreters of media messages. (Children constructed as incompetent media users, compared to competent adults. Ha! Often the other way round.)

Media literacy very high; good appreciation of broadcasters and audience. And creative, with interactive/multi-platform programming. Expectation of interaction. Had a sense of what’s objectionable, used stereotypes – but complex and nuanced phenomenon. (Also, I’d say use of stereotypical images is very media-savvy – in the sense that that’s what media does.)

They consistently understood difference between presenters and scientists; understood that presenters didn’t really know science.

Alas, the proposed prize of a day out with scientists wasn’t seen as a big enough draw, so they went for Paris Hilton and Orlando Bloom instead.

Recent e-learning research and development at the University of Leicester (David Hawkridge)

Vote: who wants PowerPoint, who wants paper, who wants me to talk? (Only one asks for Powerpoint … and gets the USB stick.)

OU gave out 78 gramophone records – on A100! It had music, poetry and some prose. Surveys showed not everyone had the tech to use it. How else to give audio? Oooh, shiny new audiotape technology.

Podcasts … a modern version of deploying audio. Lots of ways of using them.

All of Gilly Salmon’s projects have animal names (IMPALA, MOOSE, WoLF …). Cool naming scheme.

Also stuff on SecondLife (MOOSE) and Pocket PCs (WoLF). Wrong equipment problems; steep learning curve – lot of time needed from very time-poor people.

Issue with 40% of students not wanting work-related podcasts mixed up with their own entertainment/music stuff on their MP3 player. General perceived barrier – also with texts, emails, etc.

Evaluating the Accessibility of a Virtual Learning Environment within ALPE (Chris Douce and Wendy Porch)

Accessible eLearning Platform for Europe: is there a market to support a company providing consultation and resources around the production of accessible e-learning material?

Platform is dotLRN with UNED enhancements for accessibility.

Got participants in to do tasks; struggle to recruit (multiple projects at the same time). Content is SCORM-generated. Hard to locate accessibility technology. (Lunar, Window Eyes, Guide, JAWS … etc. Software is expensive and hard to find, especially at short notice.) Video feed interrupted by OU PC security features.

Lots and lots of very rich data – 20h of video.

‘Virtual learning environment’ not commonly understood. Inconsistent terminology bad. Complexity bad. Inconsistency between content viewing controls and other system not an issue. Time to complete tasks a lot longer for users with disabilities. Users with disabilities are very, very diverse.

Developers put a lot of effort in to custom access keys … and nobody used them. (They often conflict with the other assistive tech.)

OU Conf: user-generated content etc

Darrel Ince – Let the students do it

Big idea: The student generated course.

e-Learning course – students learn about e-learning (20 weeks), then develop a course (12 weeks), use that as assignment. Select the best on TMA mark and rework them into a course.

We define the structure – the main chunks – for the students to develop. Give them the learning outcomes. “We don’t want anarchy” but may encourage it later. 15h chunk, done in collaboration with another student. A process for assigning topics.

The course is generic. Could get used very widely, incl beyond the OU.

Final draft May, Oct 2009 first presentation. Topic is Web 2.0.

Also got funding to get 120 students to write a book for us on computer music; partnership with OUP and local print-on-demand shop.

IPR issue – all Creative Commons?

John Woodthorpe, Jill Shaw, Mirjam Hauck and Tita Beaven –
User-generated course content: its application in ICT and language courses

John blames Tony for this.

fOUndit – Open Source CMS – collect, share and rate online resources. Basically links to relevant URLs that live beyond the course – social bookmarking – very very similar to Digg.

Pilot with T175 and L314 Spanish and L315 German. Languages students picking it up much more than T175 people. Interested in potential for gathering user-generated course content. Library involved too.

Karma system for rewarding/recognising valuable contributions. Important thing is not the quality of the resource you find, but the quality of your analysis.

Login credentials is interesting – don’t know if people really are OU students. OpenID might be the solution – Alex Little has working – an OU OpenID server, login with your OUCU – needs people to use it or it’ll fade away and die.
Terry di Paolo – U122 Recognising acheivement

Audience – little to no post-compulsory educ, paid and voluntary work.

APEL – need to be clear about what we want them to do and what past learning is.

30 pts, MCT host, 25 wks, 1st pres Nov 2007, 12 students and 2 tutors, 3 eTMAs + ECA. All online.

First four units – think about past learning and what we mean (4wks). Last three units (20 wks) analysing, looking across learning experiences, plan next steps. Record work in MyStuff. Experiences verified by manager/supervisor as a true representation.

Students like it. Desirable to employers, workers don’t want a degree/diploma; stepping stone to HE. Unions supporting. Accreditation of prior learning – not what the course is doing, it’s more using prior learning as material for a course, the credit is for the analysis.

Credit Transfer Centre – interesting links and issues.

Could be a very open offering? Tutors mainly do assessment – vital bit of course. Tutors also important in clarifying what is meant by a learning experience. So not entirely decoupleable.

Could be really interesting to accredit the actual learning experiences too, to give credit at multiple levels.

OU Conf: Karen Kear and John Woodthorpe

Piloting VLE Communication tools in a Level 1 course

T175 Networked Living – piloted VLE tools by nine ALs, involved them as investigators. Feb-Oct 2007.  111 students.

Evaluated wikis and blogs – mostly wikis as venue for online tutorials versus FirstClas – alternative offered for a couple of online tutorials (Block 3 and some Block 4).  Also VLE blog versus online learning journal. Online questionnaire to students at end of course.

54 responses = 49% rate.

(Ooh, Twitter has just gone down. Patrick sitting next to me says he’s collecting failures. !)

Demographics – mostly 21-30 and 31-40 males, typical of the course.  5% on dialup, half on slow broadband (<1Mbps).  FirstClass – 48% use client, 11% use web, 41% use both.

Block 3 online tutorials – 52 offered VLE, 44 used it; Block 4 – 41 offtered, 23 used.  Drop off in use.

Enjoyed using it – 73%/56% Block 3/4.  Irritated when others edited work 16%/17%.  Unhappy about editing others’ work 30%/9%.  Prefer firstClass 52%/52%.  VLE tools difficult to use 50%/43%.  Interesting that irritation at others editing you doesn’t drop off but being unhappy about doing it does.

Usability of wiki vs FirstClass – wiki is generally worse, because new? Or other things.

Usability of blog vs FirstClass – blog a bit worse, but not used much, most saying ‘Not sure’.

(Possibly because it’s new)

Qual data – it’s a good idea, usability problems, social discomfort – it was too open (not restricted to student group), but makes it “easy to collaborate jointly on documents which has always been a bit of a logistical nightmare”

Further requirements – students want to know when a new contribution had been added, and who had viewed contributions (FirstClass functionality they didn’t want to lose).

Blog – students interested, but didn’t think suitable for learning journals – because of privacy and access.  Want control of access if it’s a learning journal.

Conclusions “The students enjoyed it”  (fab finding).  Usability problems, half of them preferred FirstClass.  Students concerned about access, privacy, editing others’ work, having others edit their own work.

BUT remember that online tutorials were designed for FirstClass, and the students were already very familiar with FirstClass.

JohnP – How far wikis pull students’ attention away from FirstClass?

Karen – they were using one or the other here.

ChrisP – not surprising, did similar on PROWE project – concern about the etiquette of editing.  Think back to preparing students to use FirstClass, we used to have a whole guide to this sort of stuff – students worried about publishing their thoughts in a permanent state.  Did you provide guidance as part of prep?

Karen – No, it was new to CT and ALs and students.

John – We did have a training day.  Plenty online about wiki etiquette.  Decided not to bring those in but see how they worked without the foundation we give them in the conferences.  In light of experience – give guidance, particular entry doesn’t belong to one person – e.g. ‘this is my page’ – edit it and I’ll edit yours in revenge (!). But better to get them to contribute a phrase to each page, which would’ve established the pattern of permissions, rather than encouraging ownership of a page, which was how the activity was structured.

AL – If I enter a page today, but there had been alterations between yesterday, or can I see what’s in between?

Niall – Yes you can.  VLE tools have been upgraded since then.

Karen – You get History tab and you can see the difference between one thing and the next.  Tutors would have to to see what’s gone on.

ChrisP – tutors can see what’s gone on.

Niall says he didn’t nod off so that’s good.