[Crossposted to Cloudworks]
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.
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.
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.
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.